Supporting employees at risk of domestic abuse

1. Introduction

Violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence is extremely common, has devastating effects on survivors and their children, families and communities, and impacts workplaces. Employees may be amongst those affected by violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. 

  • 1 in 3 women experience some form of violence and abuse in their lifetime. 
  • 75% of those experiencing domestic abuse are targeted at work – from harassing phone calls and abusive partners arriving at the office unannounced, to physical assaults.  
  • 53% of abused workers (male and female) miss at least 3 days from work per month.  

Violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence is everyone’s business. Businesses all over Wales can play a crucial part in prevention as well as supporting and protecting those affected, in creating a workplace where there is zero tolerance of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence and that offer support to anyone affected by violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

2. What is VAWDASV?

Violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence as defined in the Welsh Government VAWDASV (Wales) Act 2015 includes (but are not limited to) domestic abuse, rape and sexual abuse, sexual harassment and exploitation, female genital mutilation (FGM), so called honour based violence and forced marriage.

See Welsh Government website for information on the National Training Framework and range of guidance for devolved public bodies.

3. What can an employer do?

Raise awareness 
Provide information for your employees that makes them aware VAWDASV happens to many different people and everyone has a role to create communities that work towards preventing it from happening in the first place as well as supporting all those affected. 
See Welsh Government website for information on the Live Fear Free helpline and support services. 

Where to find out more:
A range of leaflets and posters for can be requested via Welsh Women’s Aid, email: info@welshwomensaid.org.uk 

4. Workplace VAWDASV policies and procedures

Robust workplace policies and procedures promote a violence and abuse free workplace and ensure employees know that all forms of violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence are not acceptable. Make sure employees know where they can raise concerns, what may happen on raising a concern and that their employer will believe them and support them.

Where to find out more:
Welsh Women’s Aid can help employers to produce a workplace policy and provide training to human resources, workplace champions and managers to enable the policy to be delivered effectively in your workplace. 

If you could be interested or would like to know more please contact: training@welshwomensaid.org.uk 

Resources and information:
For resources and information, including guidance for employers during COVID 19 please see the Welsh Women’s Aid website at www.welshwomensaid.org.uk

The Equality and Human Rights website has advice for employers regarding domestic abuse policies.  You will find their website at www.equalityhumanrights.com

5. Be proactive in supporting employees

Ensuring managers and others are trained to recognise changes in behaviour or in the quality of work performance for unexplained reasons as possible signs of abuse. Managers should be trained and provided with guidance on responding to disclosures and have an appropriate conversation about help and support available. Supportive measures could be:

  • Practical support you can offer e.g. changes in workload; paid leave; access to external supervision or counselling support.
  • Safety measures can be put in place e.g. divert phone calls and email messages; 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.

It is good practice to make the Live Fear Free helpline 0808 80 10 800 and the support services listed on Welsh Women’s Aid website (www.welshwomensaid.org.uk) list readily available and refer employees to appropriate organisations for information and support.

The Live Fear Free 0808 80 10 800 Helpline operates 24/7 and can be contacted via phone – 0808 80 10 800; text – 07860077333; e-mail info@livefearfreehelpline.wales; alternatively a live chat is available.  

Resources and information:
In response to COVID 19 there are a range of resources for bystanders and survivors on the Welsh Women’s Aid website.

6. Create workplaces where employees feel safe and able to discuss issues of abuse

Listen to your employee, believe them and do not judge them. Respecting the employee’s boundaries and privacy is essential. Welsh Women’s Aid has developed advice for concerned others in responding to VAWDASV, available on their website. Reassure employees that the organisation has an understanding of how violence and abuse may affect their work performance.

Engage all staff in developing and monitoring all workspaces and methods to ensure they feel safe and supportive as they are adapted to new models of working, including the use of hubs, shared offices and online spaces. 

Create positive mechanisms for people to raise if they do not feel ok and ensure responses to concerns are supportive and effective. Recognise that experiencing abuse can have a long term impact on someone’s wellbeing and they may need additional support at work, particularly during COVID 19. 

Supportive information for survivors during lockdown is available on the Welsh Women’s Aid website.

Through training, provide staff with the vocabulary and tools to challenge attitudes that support harassment, violence and abuse. This will encourage survivors to feel supported at work and minimise perpetrators space for action.

 

7. Take robust action to hold perpetrators to account

When a disclosure or allegation of abuse is brought to the attention of a manager, this should be acted upon. Managers must take this seriously and treat it as a serious complaint against the member of staff and respond with the appropriate level of concern.
 
Keep a record of any incidents of abuse in the workplace, including persistent telephone calls, emails or visits to the workplace, documenting discussions and actions taken storing information confidentially.

Resources and information:
Respect have information available on their website to help address behaviour for perpetrators of abuse. You will find their website at www.respectphoneline.org.uk

8. Training and Guidance

There is a range of training from awareness raising to managerial, leadership and human resources training that can help build a business that is supportive to any staff member affected by VAWDASV. Training can help employers identify the signs of violence and abuse and makes it clear that there are simple steps employers can take to respond to this sensitive issue in line with their responsibilities. 

Resources and information:
Welsh Women’s Aid has a range of courses, including workplace champions, as well as providing bespoke training, please contact training@welshwomensaid.org.uk for further information.

Please refer to the Welsh Women’s Aid website for various resources available in both Welsh and English including:

  • The COVID 19 Guidance for Employers
  • The Stand with Survivors Bystander Toolkit 
  • A suite of resources for survivors 
  • A Friends and Family leaflet is available.