How to support colleagues experiencing domestic violence
One in four women will experience domestic violence at some point in their lives, Home Office figures show. This shocking statistic means it is likely many of us will know colleagues who have experienced domestic violence.
Social care professionals are familiar with supporting service users who have suffered the effects of domestic violence. However, more unexpectedly, your fellow professionals may need help too.
Government guidance on domestic violence says: “The most harmful abuse is carried out by men against female partners, but abuse can also occur by women against men and within same sex relationships. People experience domestic violence regardless of their social group, class, age, race, disability, sexuality and lifestyle.”
1 Why is domestic violence a workplace issue?
The TUC encourages employers to introduce domestic violence policies, to make sure that people experiencing domestic violence can get the support they need.
“The workplace can act as a safe haven away from home. For this reason it has become an issue the trade union movement takes very seriously,” says Rebecca Gill, TUC women’s equality policy officer. Domestic violence can affect “punctuality, attendance, health and safety, work performance and productivity, as well as job prospects or career development,” says the TUC in its publication, Domestic violence: a guide for the workplace. Public sector union Unison has campaigned on the issue of domestic violence in the workplace.
2 How can employers support staff experiencing domestic violence?
By developing a policy covering the impact and effect of domestic violence in the workplace. It can be a specific policy on the subject, or incorporated into other workplace policies. Find out if your workplace has a policy and, if not, suggest that one is drawn up. Pursue with your union and/or human resources department.
3 What should go in the policy?
Unison says policies can include guidance on:
*raising awareness of domestic violence in the workplace
*offering information about local help and support
*making sure employees’ confidentiality is protected
*special paid or unpaid leave for staff who need it
The TUC suggests providing named contacts for staff who need to discuss personal or domestic issues. Contacts could be from personnel, or the union, or the wider workforce. This happens at Leeds Council, (see below).
4 Case study: Leeds Council’s workplace domestic violence policy
The council’s policy is that every employee who is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence has the right to raise the issue with their employer, in the knowledge that the matter will be treated effectively, sympathetically and confidentially.
The policy includes info for managers on identifying the problem; and how to make the workplace safe.
Members of staff, who are trained, act as domestic violence contact officers and offer information and support. They are not counsellors but a first port of call and keep details of agencies who can help. Their contact numbers are displayed on posters.
The policy also includes advice on how to handle staff who are perpetrators of violence. The council believes it has helped create a culture where people can be open about discussing domestic violence.
5 Further info
To order Domestic violence: a guide to the workplace, a TUC publication, go to www.tuc.org.uk/publications/srchResults.cfm
Download a free Unison campaign leaflet on domestic violence as a workplace issue at