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When working for you is a lifeline

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

No-one I know…' 'Not In My Back Yard’ (a sociological variation of the NIMBY that usually refers to building projects)

‘...only happens in lower socio-economic areas

’...only happens to those less well educated

Last week I attended a workshop (facilitated by Changing Relations) on how domestic violence affects employees’ well-being and productivity, and by extension their employers and businesses.

The beliefs listed above are common along with an understandable reluctance for businesses to pay attention to it. It’s uncomfortable and many feel it isn’t their place or within their skillset to deal with it in the workplace.

The reality is different of course.

- 75% of those experiencing domestic abuse have been targeted at the workplace (figures from UK).

- There have been instances of violence and even murder by partners on business premises. Which means this question is important to ask - 'Could this happen to us?'

- The total cost to the economy of the ‘journey to safety’ in Ireland has been estimated at €2.7billion annually.

- It’s estimated that Domestic Violence (DV) costs businesses in England and Wales £1.9billion annually.

For many experiencing abuse, work is a lifeline of safety and financial security. Despite the figures above only 5% of companies have a guidance policy on DV. Paying attention to this and creating a psychologically safe space for employees to continue to work and continue to be productive at work is something that clearly requires attention.

In fact, the UK’s Equality Act of 2010 states that mental ill-health that results from domestic abuse qualifies as a disability and therefore employers have a responsibility to make provisions and offer supports for those employees to continue in their roles.

How can employers do this? Some examples given were:

- Having a Domestic Abuse Support guideline or policy, with an appointed person for staff to approach.

- Be sensitive, discreet, practical, supportive and non-judgemental.

- Prioritise safety over efficiency for employees affected. In addition, these employees should be protected from unnecessary disciplinary actions over poor performance.

- Remember this can affect both men and women.

- Listen, don’t seek ‘proof’ and don’t approach the alleged abuser.

- Remember you are not social services so enlist the professionals. Safe Ireland recommend that you make managerial commitments to support affected employees, rather than personal commitments.

- Move desks from windows or arranging for the employee to work on an upper floor may be necessary. Changing e-mail addresses and contact numbers may also be necessary.

- Offer flexibility around leave and salary payments if needed.

- Watch out for signs you might otherwise miss, such as too much clothing for the current weather or heavier make up than usual (hiding injuries), taking calls outside and appearing upset afterwards or appearing upset on receiving texts, reluctance to leave children home alone, unusual patterns of lateness, absences, deadlines missed; avoiding social events, volunteering to do overtime every time, secretive about home life, always tired. OF COURSE these do not necessarily ‘diagnose’ that abuse is happening but they are behaviours displayed by those who are experiencing abuse.

- Be supportive of employees who may require time off to assist their family member who is experiencing abuse.

This is an important piece in the puzzle of psychological safety in the workplace and it’s a wider-ranging issue than we might think.

Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but the reality is that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men experience domestic abuse. As a leader you already have eyes in the back of your head so you might actually notice worrying behaviours sooner than others. As a leader you may be in the privileged position of being trusted and approached. As a leader you are best placed to ensure your company continues to be the lifeline of safety and financial independence for someone who needs it.

Until next time, take care,



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