The human and financial costs of domestic violence and abuse are immeasurable, causing harm and disruption to families, communities and society on a massive scale.
The negative impact on individual lives, public services and economic output are widely recognised.
Domestic abuse is an issue that costs the UK economy £1.9 billion in lost economic output every year and leads to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and increased employee turnover.
A research study originally undertaken by Sylvia Walby in 2004 estimated the total cost of domestic abuse in Leeds as a total £322 million and the estimated cost to Leeds employers - £18.7 million per annum.
Even with limited resources there are steps that small business owners can take to address the effects of domestic abuse in the workplace. In many cases it is about being aware and signposting to the organisations that provide specialist support.
Below is a list of ten low-cost, common-sense actions businesses can take to manage domestic abuse in the workplace, with benefits for both employees and businesses.
Recognise the problem
1. Look for sudden changes in behaviour and/or changes in the quality of work performance for unexplained reasons despite a previously strong record.
2. Look for changes in the way an employee dresses, for example excessive clothing on hot days, changes in the amount of make-up worn.
3. Believe an employee if they disclose experiencing domestic abuse – do not ask for proof.
4. Reassure the employee that the organisation has an understanding of how domestic abuse may affect their work performance and the support that can be offered.
5. Divert phone calls and email messages and look to change a phone extension if an employee is receiving harassing calls.
6. Agree with the employee what to tell colleagues and how they should respond if their ex/partner telephones or visits the workplace.
7. Ensure the employee does not work alone or in an isolated area and check that staff have arrangements for getting safely to and from home.
8. Keep a record of any incidents of abuse in the workplace, including persistent telephone calls, emails or visits to the workplace.
9. Put up domestic abuse helpline posters on the back of toilet doors (Refuge/Respect 2010).
Refer to the appropriate help
10. Have a list of the support services offered in your area that is easily accessible and refer employees to appropriate organisations that deal with domestic abuse.
Domestic Violence and Abuse Quality Mark for private businesses
After consultation with businesses, Safer Leeds have developed the Domestic Violence and Abuse Quality Mark for private businesses. This offers a framework for employers to improve their responses to employees affected by domestic violence and abuse. A self-assessment checklist (PDF 93.3KB) is available to help you consider what you can do in this area.
If you are a business and would like to know more about the Quality Mark please email the Domestic Violence team at email@example.com.