With one in four women and one in six men suffering from domestic abuse in their lifetime, the human cost is immeasurable, and the financial cost to employers is high.
Figures from the Home Office show that domestic abuse costs UK businesses almost £2bn(1) each year due to absences, lost wages, sick pay and a drop in productivity.
Many businesses may have staff who have faced, or are currently facing, domestic abuse, either as victims, witnesses or perpetrators, yet it is acknowledged that only 5 per cent of businesses have a domestic abuse policy.
With this in mind, Bedfordshire Police recently held its first multi-agency conference for the county’s businesses to highlight the signs that someone in their workforce may be a victim, or even a perpetrator, to demonstrate the impact that this can have on a working environment and signpost where to get help.
Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Dadd, head of the force’s Emerald team, a specialist unit dedicated to the investigation of domestic abuse, said: ‘’It’s excellent that we have been able to bring together employers from across Bedfordshire, to raise awareness of how to recognise and assist employees that are both abused, and abusing.
“We spend around a third of our time at work and employers are in a unique position to create a supportive workplace culture that recognises all wellbeing needs and helps to tackle the fear and stigma of abuse, and break the silence around this issue.
“There is no excuse for this behaviour, and if you are suffering abuse or violence, remember, it is not your fault. You are not alone, and there are many organisations and people that can help you. We will listen, we will believe you and we can help.”
Domestic abuse can be reported by calling 101. In an emergency, always call 999.
(1) Source: Public Health England July 2018
Tips for employers
1. Look out for sudden changes in behaviour and/or changes in the quality of work performance for unexplained reasons, despite having a previously strong record.
2. Look for changes in the way an employee dresses. Are they wearing excessive clothing on hot days, or have changed the amount of make-up they wear?
3. If someone discloses experiencing domestic abuse, do not ask for proof. Instead, reassure them that they are believed.
4. Reassure the employee that your organisation understands how domestic abuse may affect work performance and the support that can be offered.
5. Divert phone calls and email messages and look to change a phone extension or mobile number if an employee is receiving harassing calls.
6. Agree with the employee what to tell colleagues and how they should respond if their abuser telephones or visits the workplace.
7. Ensure the employee does not work alone or in an isolated area, and check arrangements for safely getting to and from home.
8. Keep a record of any incidents of abuse that occur in or around the workplace, including persistent telephone calls, emails or visits by the abuser.
9. Put domestic abuse helpline information where employees can discreetly see it, for example, on the back of toilet doors.
10 .Keep a list of support services offered in your area that is easily accessible, and refer employees to appropriate organisations that deal with domestic abuse.
Signs that someone could be a perpetrator of domestic abuse
An excellent worker, manager, or other professional could also be the perpetrator of abuse, yet may successfully hide this at work.
If an individual is often absent, or late, in relation to issues or situations at home, or contacts their partner repeatedly during working hours, this could indicate a need for control.
Perpetrators may display bullying behaviour towards others in the work environment, or blame others for their problems, especially their partner.
They may not take criticism well, and may act defensively when challenged.
Employers can find out more about a domestic abuse policy for their workplace from the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse by visiting https://eida.org.uk/ - it’s free, and helps employers to provide a supportive environment for staff who are affected by domestic abuse in any way.