Information for professionals

Workplace and Employer Issues

The Alliance is keen to improve employer policies and support in organisations and agencies across Devon. The large public sector organisations in Devon (e.g. local authorities, police and health) employ between them over 35,000 staff. Devon County Council’s consultation (2004 and 2007) with employees found that 10% of respondents were current victims of domestic violence and abuse. This means that at least 3,500 of Devon’s public sector staff are current victims of domestic violence and abuse.

Employers who fail to protect their employees from violence (e.g. stalking and harassment via text, telephone, email and in person visits) at work may be liable. Post separation abuse and stalking are common features of an abusive relationship.

Employees who are abusers may use employers’ resources such as telephone, email and company vehicles to make threats and stalk their victim.

Domestic violence and abuse not only impacts on employees’ ability to provide and care for themselves and their families, but it also affects the financial strength and success of the organisations they work for. In many cases the violence and abuse can spill out of the home and into the workplace.

The cost to businesses across the UK in terms of lost productivity, absenteeism, legal costs, medical costs and police costs is £2.72billion (Walby, S., The Cost of Domestic Violence: Up-date 2009, Lancaster University). In Devon the estimated annual cost of domestic violence and abuse to society is £80 million.

The impact of abuse on businesses is extensive:

  • 98% of domestic abuse survivors said that the abuse affected their ability to perform their work duties
  • over half of abused staff had absenteeism – abused staff frequently arrive late, leave early or miss work due to abuse.
  • 75% of domestic abuse victims are targeted at work – from harassing phone calls and abusive partners arriving at the office unannounced, to physical assaults
  • Once a person leaves an abusive partner they are especially vulnerable at work, as it may be the only place they can be located or harmed

Domestic violence also affects other staff who may have to fill in for absent or non-productive colleagues; feel resentful of victims needing time off or receiving extra attention; try to “protect” victims from unwanted phone calls and visits; and be unaware of how to intervene, often feeling helpless and distracted from their work.

What you can do as an employer to help safeguard your staff

Simple, low cost steps taken to address the effects on the workplace can prove highly beneficial in terms of productivity and staff retention.

  • Introduce an employer policy on domestic violence and abuse.This should give a clear and positive statement of your commitment to supporting staff around this issue. Devon County Council’s policy can be found here.
  • Provide domestic violence training for managers (see Training section for more details)
  • Promote your organisation’s proactive ‘no tolerance’ stance to violence
  • Include domestic violence policy in staff inductions
  • Publicise the policy and procedures at departmental level
  • Be ‘open’ about the issue
  • Provide leaflets and information to all staff on noticeboards, during staff meetings, as part of supervision and appraisals so staff know where to access specialist support
  • Set up a Domestic Violence and Abuse Contact Scheme (DVAC)

What is a DVAC

It is recognised that domestic violence and abuse is an extremely difficult thing to talk about and that most victims endeavour to function without support, in the hope that the situation will end. Additionally, the majority of victims do not see themselves to be in a domestic violence situation. However, we are aware that some victims wish they could speak to someone, in private and confidence. The workplace can offer them this opportunity.

Domestic Violence and Abuse Contacts provide a sympathetic and understanding ear, providing impartial referral information so that the individual can decide the course of action best suited to him/her at that time.  There may be a range of possible options: i) to refer to DCC support services; ii) to refer to external specialist support services; iii) to provide information and advice iv) to support the client in a meeting with his/her manager v) to inform about the employer’s flexibility to support the client, utilising the DCC Domestic Violence and Abuse Policy.

It is important to note that the DVA Contact is NOT a counsellor. It is anticipated that in the majority of cases contact with the client will by telephone but on some occasions a face to face meeting might be agreed, on DCC premises and within DCC core working hours. It is further anticipated that a maximum of two hours support per client will be provided. Exceptions to this are likely to be when the client asks the DVAC to accompany them to meet their manager.