Consider the reasons a member of staff might call in to request leave from work. Perhaps they have a long-term medical condition, which is particularly aggrieving them lately. Maybe they’re suffering with stress and need a ‘home day’ to realign, knowing some time out today will make for a better tomorrow. A relative may have passed away, or there may have been a sudden change in family circumstances that needs some attention.
How often do you receive calls from female members of staff, explaining they need the day off because their partner has been abusive towards them? I would venture a guess that the answer, is ‘not often, if at all’. So, it might surprise you to know that a fifth of all employed women in the UK are forced to take time off work because of domestic violence. And the impact it is having on businesses across the country is growing.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission estimates 56 per cent of those enduring domestic abuse are frequently late for work and 54 per cent miss at least three days of work each year. Furthermore, 75 per cent of those enduring abuse will be targeted in the workplace, either by excessive contact from their abuser via text and email, or even stalking. So, while they may be at work, they are not present.
The direct cost of domestic abuse to businesses amounts to more than £1.9bn a year – and that’s before you account for the loss of productivity and performance. Furthermore, if managers and
teams are working with someone suffering domestic abuse, and they become affected too – either with their own poor mental wellbeing or stress – the impact has potential to be even more significant.
In the last year alone, Citizens Advice Fylde has dealt with a female who was recurrently absent from work because her abuser refused to provide her the bus fare to travel. Another was in a relationship with her line manager – who was also her perpetrator. She eventually fled and moved to a new area but was terrified of getting a reference for new employment as she was afraid the perpetrator would find out her new location.
Another, who left her abusive partner, was repeatedly stalked and harassed using her work email address and telephone number, and was later disciplined because of the impact it had on her role.
These are very real examples of the ways in which domestic abuse can impact someone’s employment. So are you confident you could spot the typical signs a female member of staff is suffering domestic abuse?
To support employers in our local area to be aware of the signs of abuse, we have extended The Rosemary Project to now train key post holders in recognising physical, financial, coercive, sexual and emotional abuse signals. The programme trains those involved in how to spot typical triggers
for escalations in abuse, such as when someone leaves their partner or falls pregnant; advice on how to manage performance or attendance issues caused by domestic abuse, as well as how and when to offer appropriate support and services to the team member in question.
The project also offers guidance on how to manage internal, workplace abuse scenarios such as harassment or violence at work, dealing with employees that are perpetrators, and tips to ensure workplaces aren’t enabling abusers – such as changing work patterns, removing names from directories and having caller ID.
We also encourage every workplace to appoint Domestic Violence Champions – named members of staff that employees can go to if they need to disclose confidential information or seek advice. Doing so helps banish the shame and stigma surrounding domestic abuse, changing the culture of reporting the issue within the workplace.
We’ll provide posters and a point of contact for referrals for those who report abuse, a qualified
independent domestic violence or sexual violence adviser and advocate to assist employees, as well as supporting in any changes of policy within businesses regarding domestic abuse, such as safeguarding or training for post holders.
If it isn’t already, there is a 20 per cent chance that domestic violence will affect your business in some way. And while as a business leader, you need to take steps to mitigate against the financial risk to your company, it is of course more important to protect your staff from the unquestionable fear they may be living with around the clock. If you want to arm your team with the skills to spot and support a domestic abuse sufferer, please get in contact with us.
At Citizens Advice Fylde, we provide free, confidential and impartial advice, whilst also campaigning on the big issues affecting people’s lives. As an independent charity and part of the Citizens Advice network across England and Wales, our goal is to help everyone find a way forward, with whatever problem they face.
For more information and advice, contact Natalie Reeves, chief executive officer at Citizens Advice Fylde, on firstname.lastname@example.org.