Advice for employers

David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “The Open the Door campaign is encouraging people to talk about domestic abuse and advising them where they can seek help if they find themselves or someone they know in an abusive relationship.

“Following the initial launch of the initiative, we are now planning on working with local businesses to talk to them about the important role they can play in society’s response to domestic abuse.“We want Cheshire businesses to use the Open the Door campaign to support and signpost their employees to services if and when they need support.”

Domestic abuse is everyone’s business

Domestic abuse is hugely destructive and we all have a collective responsibility to tackle it. Employers have an important role to play in society’s response to domestic abuse.

One in four women and one in six men suffer from domestic abuse in their lifetime and domestic abuse costs businesses £1.9 billion every year due to decreased productivity, time off work, lost wages and sick pay.

Domestic abuse may happen behind closed doors, away from the workplace, but it has far-reaching consequences and has an impact on the working lives who live with an abusive partner. Indeed, often the workplace is a place of refuge and safety.

To help businesses to think about domestic abuse and how they can play their part in both supporting and signposting their employees to services, the government has issued guidance and advice to help employers deal with domestic abuse and stigma.

Spotting the signs:

Work productivity

  • Change in the person’s working patterns such as frequent absence, lateness or needing to leave work early
  • Reduced quality and quantity of work: missing deadlines, a drop in usual performance standards
  • Change in the use of the phone/email: for example, a large number of personal calls/texts, avoiding calls or a strong reaction to calls/texts/emails
  • Spending an increased number of hours at work for no reason
  • Frequent visits to work by the employee’s partner, which may indicate coercive control

Physical indicators

  • Visible bruising or single or repeated injury with unlikely explanations
  • Change in the pattern or amount of makeup used
  • Change in the manner of dress: for example, clothes that do not suit the climate which may be used to hide injuries
  • Substance use/misuse
  • Fatigue/sleep disorders
  • Partner or ex-partner stalking employee in or around the workplace or on social media
  • Partner or ex-partner exerting unusual amount of control or demands over work schedule
  • Isolation from family/friends

Changes in behaviour or demeanour

  • Conduct out of character with previous behaviour
  • Changes in behaviour: for example, becoming very quiet, anxious, frightened, tearful, aggressive, distracted or depressed
  • Being isolated from colleagues

Other indicators

  • Obsession with leaving work on time
  • Secretive regarding home life
  • Worried about leaving children at home

Source: Department of Health / SafeLives

If a manager suspects that an employee is experiencing domestic abuse they should arrange a conversation to discuss the issue on a general level and identify and implement appropriate support.
Further resources for employers:

Department of Health / SafeLives. Responding to colleagues experiencing domestic abuse

Domestic violence resource manual for employers, developed in partnership by Refuge and Respect

EHRC / CIPD Managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse

EHRC – Domestic abuse: workplace policies and managing and supporting employees

Refuge and Respect project to support employers’ responses to domestic violence – evaluation report

Sentencing Council guidelines on domestic abuse

The Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse

The Intervention Initiative toolkit, University of Exeter

Unison – Domestic violence and abuse: a trade union issue

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