Call for more action from employers on domestic abuse

Close up of a carer holding the hand of an elderly lady


Only one in 20 medium and large UK organisations have a specific policy or guideline to cover domestic abuse among their workforce despite the fact that almost two million adults have experienced it in the last year, according to new research.

The study, Domestic Violence and Abuse: Working together to transform responses in the workplace, was undertaken by Durham University Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse and Ipsos MORI, and will be launched in London at the first conference to be held by the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA).

Nearly three-quarters of HR leads in medium and large UK businesses surveyed (74%) agree companies can empower victims by giving them guidance on how to deal with domestic abuse and only 9% agree it is a personal matter and not appropriate for employees to raise with their employers. Yet, the research reveals there is a perception that at a senior level within organisations it is not seen as an issue that affects employees. Just 6% strongly agree and 20% tend to agree that it is an issue that is on the agenda for HR policymakers.

The research found there was an average of only 0.5 disclosures of domestic abuse per medium and larger UK
organisation in the last 12 months.

Professor Nicole Westmarland, Director at the Durham University Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse, says: “Over the last few decades we’ve seen lots of improvements in responses to domestic abuse. But effective responses in the workplace are lacking. The time has now come for more workplaces to step up and join the movement to end domestic abuse.”

Elizabeth Filkin [pictured], who chairs the EIDA steering group, says: “Despite 86% of HR leads agreeing that employers have a duty of care to provide support to employees on the issue of domestic abuse, it is clear from the research that domestic abuse appears to sit outside organisations’ more commonly developed set of ‘duty of care’ policies and guidelines. But in those companies which believe domestic abuse has had an impact in their organisation in the past 12 months, 58% say an employee’s productivity has declined, 56% that it has caused absenteeism and 46% that it had an impact on other colleagues’ productivity. A quarter of these organisations believe that harassment/abuse has occurred at the workplace.

“Given the cost of domestic abuse to business at a time when the UK’s productivity is falling, it is more important than ever that employers do more to tackle the issue, which is why the EIDA came into existence.”

The research report offers nine recommendations including introducing a new provision in the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill  – currently out for consultation – which amends the current law so that there is no minimum qualifying period before being able to ask for flexible working for those experiencing domestic abuse; and allowing those experiencing domestic abuse may make more than one application for flexible working in each year.

It also calls on the Government to introduce a minimum entitlement of 10 days’ paid leave in any year to an employee experiencing domestic abuse within the Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill. And it says there needs to be a national campaign should be developed to raise awareness of domestic abuse in the workplace and signpost to local support.

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