Why is domestic abuse an employment issue?
Put simply, domestic abuse results in decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, increased errors and increased employee turnover. The safety of your employee is also paramount. You have a duty of care to all employees.
An understanding and effective workplace with measures in place will build a more nurturing and safer working environment for all employees. This will encourage greater staff retention and importantly economic independence for those individuals living with or fleeing domestic abuse.
How to deal with and offer support to those who you may be suffering from domestic abuse?
- Train managers how to best support staff members experiencing domestic abuse.
- Signpost employees to the EAP if available.
- Display domestic abuse national and local support/advice in the workplace.
- Ensure that managers could signpost employees to support/advice.
- It is important that managers are able to provide a non-judgemental and supportive environment.
- Respecting the employee’s boundaries and privacy is essential.
- Even if managers disagree with the decisions being made regarding an employee’s relationship, it is important to understand that those in abusive relationships may make a number of attempts to leave their situation, before they are finally able to do so.
- Managers also need to be aware that the abused staff member is most at risk of life threatening or fatal abuse when they are attempting to leave or have recently left an abusive or violent partner. This is why it is so important to believe an employee if they disclose experiencing domestic abuse.
- Never ask for proof or dismiss reports or use judgemental language – such as ‘why don’t you just leave? Or, why haven’t you told anyone before?’
- Allow them time and somewhere quiet/private to speak with you and be prepared that this will be an upsetting conversation.
- Reassure the employee that you have an understanding of how domestic abuse may affect their work performance and the support that you can offer this employee.
Signs of abuse (List not exhaustive)
- Physical abuse – Assault, hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, hair-pulling, biting, pushing, rough handling, scalding and burning, physical punishments, inappropriate or unlawful use of restraint, making someone purposefully uncomfortable (e.g. opening a window and removing blankets), involuntary isolation or confinement, misuse of medication (e.g. over-sedation), forcible feeding or withholding food, unauthorised restraint, restricting movement (e.g. tying someone to a chair).
- Domestic abuse – Acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation, harming, punishing, or frightening the person, isolating the person from sources of support, exploitation of resources or money, preventing the person from escaping abuse, regulating everyday behaviour.
- Sexual Abuse – Rape, attempted rape or sexual assault, inappropriate touch anywhere, non- consensual masturbation of either or both persons, non- consensual sexual penetration or attempted penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth, any sexual activity that the person lacks the capacity to consent to, inappropriate looking, sexual teasing or innuendo or sexual harassment, sexual photography or forced use of pornography or witnessing of sexual acts, indecent exposure.
- Psychological or Emotional Abuse – Enforced social isolation, preventing someone accessing services, educational and social opportunities and seeing friends, removing mobility or communication aids or intentionally leaving someone unattended when they need assistance, preventing someone from meeting their religious and cultural needs, preventing the expression of choice and opinion, failure to respect privacy, preventing stimulation, meaningful occupation or activities, intimidation, coercion, harassment, use of threats, humiliation, bullying, swearing or verbal abuse, addressing a person in a patronising or infantilising way, threats of harm or abandonment, cyber bullying.
- Financial or material abuse – Theft of money or possessions, fraud, scamming, preventing a person from accessing their own money, benefits or assets, employees taking a loan from a person using the service, undue pressure, duress, threat or undue influence put on the person in connection with loans, wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions, arranging less care than is needed to save money to maximise inheritance, denying assistance to manage/monitor financial affairs, denying assistance to access benefits, misuse of personal allowance in a care home, misuse of benefits or direct payments in a family home, someone moving into a person’s home and living rent free without agreement or under duress, false representation, using another person’s bank account, cards or documents, exploitation of a person’s money or assets, e.g. unauthorised use of a car, misuse of a power of attorney, deputy, appointeeship or other legal authority, rogue trading – e.g. unnecessary or overpriced property repairs and failure to carry out agreed repairs or poor workmanship.
- Modern Slavery – Human trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, such as escort work, prostitution and pornography, debt bondage – being forced to work to pay off debts that realistically they never will be able to.
Coercive Control/Financial Abuse
It is important to mention this separately as it is becoming a talked about subject within HR Forums.
Do you have any staff members that have asked you to pay into someone else’s bank account?
This could be exploitation of a person’s money and a way to gain not just financial control but complete control of an individual’s life. Money allows somebody to be independent and autonomous. Taking this away from them means that they would be reliant on somebody else for money, they would be stuck and unable to leave even if they wanted to.
It could also be a sign of modern slavery or trafficking.
Is it therefore our duty to ask employees to complete bank detail forms/new starter forms at work on their first day?
Yes! This would mean that we could ensure that the details have been completed by the employee themselves, they haven’t been completed by anyone else.
Should we question if the details provided on the new starter form/bank details form do not correlate with their name?
Yes! It is worth a conversation with the employee to discuss the details they have provided. This will hopefully offer an opportunity for discussion. Handled the right way, it could mean that somebody feels able to confide in you or seek support.
Work can be a refuge for some people and therefore being in a position, equipped with information and knowledge on where to signpost support or respond to an employee who confides in you could be the difference between them staying in the position they are in, or feeling supported enough to seek help.
Domestic Abuse Support
Freephone National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge
0808 200 0247
Galop (for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people)
0800 999 5428
Men’s Advice Line
0808 801 0327
Rape Crisis (England and Wales)
0808 802 9999
If you need any assistance with any aspect of HR or employment law please call us on 01527 306066.