Why Is Domestic Abuse A Workplace Issue?

One in four women and one in six men will experience Domestic Violence at least once in their lifetime.

It will probably have an impact on their mental health due to depression, sleep deprivation, inability to concentrate, loss of appetite and physical pain. There can be changes in the employee’s behaviour, increased lateness or absenteeism, unexplained injuries, reduced quality and/or quantity of work. All of this can result in performance issues and impact not just the employee, but their colleagues and your clients as well.

The workplace may be the only place that the employee feels safe from their abuser and where they can safely access support.

As an employer, how can you help?

Firstly, get some advice and develop a Domestic Violence and Abuse Policy. As an employer, you have a moral and legal obligation to take care of the physical and psychological health and safety of all your staff. Creating policies, procedures and training that raises awareness and creates a safe and supportive workplace for all employees, is in the interest of all employers.

Ensure that your people managers are aware of the policy, and they have been given the tools to help and support employees.

How can People Managers help?

If a manager suspects that an employee is experiencing domestic abuse, they should start a conversation to be able to discuss this and identify and offer appropriate support. Shying away from the subject can continue the fear of stigma and increase feelings of anxiety.

Often employees will not feel confident in speaking up, so a manager making the first move to begin a conversation can be key.

Managers should ask the employee indirect questions, to help establish a relationship with the employee and develop empathy. Respecting the employee’s boundaries and privacy is essential.

Here are some examples of questions that could be used:

  • How are you doing at the moment? Are there any issues you would like to discuss with me?
  • I have noticed recently that you are not yourself. Is anything the matter?
  • Are there any problems or reasons that may be contributing to your frequent sickness absence/underperformance at work?
  • Is everything alright at home?
  • What support do you think might help? What would you like to happen? How?

Avoid victim-blaming. It is important that managers can provide a non-judgemental and supportive environment.

Respect an employee’s decisions about their relationship and understand that a victim of domestic abuse may make several attempts to leave their partner before they are finally able to do so. It’s important that managers are aware of the effects of the control from an abuser.

Finally, provide information of organisations, services and charities, both local and national that the employee will be able to access for advice and support, such as the ones below.

It is important to bear in mind that both male and female employees may be victims of domestic abuse and that those in same sex relationships are not exempt. It may also be that your employee is the child, a witness, or the perpetrator of domestic abuse or violence. They all need help and support.

Domestic abuse takes many forms, not just violence, it may also be coercive control or financial control.

As an employer, it is not your job to prevent or stop the behaviours happening. You need to provide a safe space, empowering your employee to seek and accept support from trained professionals.

It is important to remember that if you are concerned that someone is in imminent danger, you call the police on 999. If someone is absent from work and you’re concerned about them, you could use 101 and ask for a welfare visit. Be careful about using emergency contact numbers and be cautious in what you say. If in doubt, seek advice.

On many of the pages on this website, you will find the blue safe spaces logo. This provides access to resources for those who are victims of domestic abuse and those supporting victims. By following this link, it leaves no cookies or crumbs on the machine being used. One touch of the ‘esc’ button will also shut down the safe spaces site, again leaving no trace.


Where to get help and resources

  • 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline
    A service for women experiencing domestic violence, their family, friends, colleagues and others calling on their behalf. It is run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge. Callers may first of all hear an answerphone message before speaking to a person.
    Freephone: 0808 2000 247


  • Men’s Advice Line
    A confidential helpline for all men experiencing domestic violence by a current or ex-partner. Caters for all men: whether in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. Offers emotional support, practical advice and information on a wide range of services for further help and support.
    Freephone: 0808 801 0327 Days and times of phone support vary.


  • Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA)
    EIDA is an organisation which provides tools and information for employers.