Employment Law: Domestic Abuse & Employers Responsibility | December 2020
Domestic abuse is everybody’s business, and this includes employers. Two million people in the UK experience domestic abuse every year – and yet we think it is something that happens to ‘other people’. Domestic abuse is something that will impact every workplace and yet so few employers have adequate policies or training about domestic abuse. (SafeLives 2020).
Research recently undertaken by Women’s Aid and the BBC report the coronavirus crisis has dramatically compounded domestic abuse against women where two-thirds of women in abusive relationships have suffered more violence from their partners during the pandemic and three-quarters of victims also say the lockdown has made it harder for them to escape their abusers.
So why is this an employers problem?
Business in the Community and Public Health England have produced a guide showing some of the key statistics:
- 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men suffer from domestic abuse in their lifetime;
- The cost of domestic abuse to business is estimated at £1.9 billion a year due to decreased productivity, time off work, lost wages and sick pay;
- Only 5% of organisations have a specific policy or guidelines on the issue;
Further joint research by the CIPD and The Equality and Human Rights Commission show that a high proportion of those enduring domestic abuse are targeted at work.
Employers Duty of Care
Employers have a ‘duty of care’. This means they must do all they reasonably can to support their employees health, safety and wellbeing. It is important therefore, that employers exercise this duty in a visible way - not just in this period of COVID-19 but also as part of an organisation's ongoing Mental Health and Wellbeing strategy.
However, having a policy or strategy regarding domestic abuse is not enough, staff should receive training on the issues, they must know how to access it and there should be a culture in the organisation which removes the stigma, shame and isolation that many victims of domestic abuse experience. Your organisation should also recognise the key role that employers can have in the solution to this societal problem. Failure on behalf of the employer in this key area can also lead to grievances and legal challenges as well as the damage to the organisations reputation.
The other dimension employers need to consider is that employee’s may also be perpetrators of abuse, as well as victims. It is essential that your organisation should have clear Codes of Conduct relating to behaviour in and outside the workplace. Therefore, such code along with other organisational policies should make it clear that all forms of abuse - including domestic abuse – are strictly prohibited.
There are many circumstances and examples that allow an employer to take action and discipline an employee for misconduct outside of the workplace ie, an employees actions bringing the business into disrepute such a drug offence, racist/sexist remark. Employers need to be explicit that domestic abuse falls into this same criminal arena.
Human Resources need to have the authority to take disciplinary action against perpetrators of domestic abuse, even if this behaviour occurs outside the workplace. This may result in:
- Disciplinary action, including dismissal;
- Notification to the police and child safeguarding
- Notification to any regulators or professional associations;
There is a legal as well as a moral imperative for all organisations to get this right and there is plenty of advice, support and resources for employers to access from various government departments, agencies and third sector organisations.
Whilst not an exhaustive list, some key contacts are:
The team here at cHRysos HR Solutions wish you and your team a safe and successful Christmas 2020. If you have any HR issues and would like to talk them through with our team, please contact us.
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