With the Euros in full swing and England performing well (or so I am told), this is a good time to talk about domestic violence and employers’ responsibility. You might ask how these three things can possibly be interlinked, but a study by Lancashire University shows an huge increase in police response to domestic abuse complaints after an England match. Complaints rose by over one-third if England lose, and by 26% if they win.
So where does the employer come in? Domestic abuse seems like a pure ‘domestic’ issue and one in which most employers would loathe to involve themselves. We aren’t suggesting that the employer somehow has legal responsibility (in most cases – see below) for acts of abuse or violence taking place in the home, however, seeing as we spend on average about one-third of our lives at work, employers are often well placed to spot issues and provide support.
This issue has become particularly prevalent during the pandemic. Not only has lockdown seen an increase in domestic violence, both in terms of frequency and severity, but responsibility for health and safety extends to employees working from home and ensuring that they have a safe working environment. If you are aware that an employee is suffering from domestic abuse, it may be a breach of your obligations to them to require them to work from home, if it is not safe for them to do so.
Public Health England and Business in the Community have published a toolkit to help employers deal with domestic violence, and there is an argument that this is just ‘good business’. According to Public Health England, “One in four women and one in six men suffer from domestic abuse in their lifetime and domestic abuse costs businesses £1.9 billion every year due to decreased productivity, time off work, lost wages and sick pay.”
The toolkit is designed to help employers via the four R’s – Recognise, Respond, Refer, and Record.
Employers are advised to look out for signs of domestic abuse, including:
frequent absence, lateness or needing to leave work early
reduced quality and quantity of work or missing deadlines
changes in the way an employee communicates - a large number of personal calls or texts or a strong reaction to personal calls
physical signs and symptoms such as unexplained or frequent bruises or other injuries
Dealing with issues of domestic violence as an employer can be extremely tricky, but the key is open communication and training, as well as creating an inclusive environment (for example, by not assuming that men cannot be victims of domestic abuse).
If you have any queries regarding your obligations to employees, please do not hesitate to give Charlotte Braham a call on 01494 893529.