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 can you 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.
- 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