Domestic abuse: Providing support and empowering employees

Employee wellbeing: Life events – Are you an employer of choice?

This final article in our Employee Wellbeing series focuses on the issue of domestic abuse – brought sharply into the spotlight by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns – and why this is an area in which employers need to be fully informed and have in place appropriate employee support and safeguards.

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse is pervasive and cuts across lines of income, class and culture. It occurs between two individuals who are personally connected to each other and includes, but is not limited to, physical harm. It can also comprise coercive control; economic abuse, whereby a victim’s financial independence is restricted, or employment interfered with; physiological control by means of gaslighting or controlling social interactions; and cyber harassment.

While it is predominantly females who experience domestic abuse – with 25% of women in the UK experiencing domestic violence – men too can be affected[1]. Reports indicate that as many as 15% of men in the UK have been subjected to abuse, with many more reluctant to speak up.[2]

Why should employers provide support?

Employers are not experts and cannot solve issues of domestic abuse single-handedly; however they can play an important role. Employers are well-placed to help identify problems, escalate them where necessary, and empower employees to seek help.

Beyond the ethical considerations, there are also clear commercial reasons for employers to have in place a comprehensive strategy for supporting employees affected by domestic abuse.

Businesses in the UK lose around £316,000,000 annually from absences caused by domestic abuse.[3] Productivity can also be impacted, with a high number of individuals experiencing domestic abuse reporting that their ability to work has been affected.[4] By recognising that this is more than a social issue, companies can reduce absenteeism, promote a healthy work environment, and build a more resilient and sustainable workforce.

The legal position

While there are currently no legal obligations on employers to specifically support employees who are suffering domestic abuse, a recent BEIS report entitled, “Workplace support for victims of domestic violence” has highlighted the government’s intention that employers should take an active role in this space.[5] Further legislative steps could therefore be taken in the future.

There are also a number of current legal duties that may be relevant, which include:

  • Employers’ obligations to protect the health and safety of their employees;
  • Potential discrimination claims based on the propensity for females to be impacted by domestic abuse.

What can employers do?

By acknowledging the impact of domestic violence in the workplace and supporting employees accordingly, companies can help demonstrate their values and get ahead of the curve on what is becoming an increasingly relevant issue. A progressive work-place culture is also invaluable in fostering an inclusive working environment and attracting and retaining talent. A comprehensive policy addressing domestic abuse can also enhance an organisation’s ESG credentials and help develop commercial partnerships as a result.

When drafting a domestic abuse policy, a key aim should be to raise awareness and empower victims to take the difficult first step of seeking help. A well-drafted policy should provide information and support to employees who may need that help, as well as outlining the processes and procedures in place to address any matters which may arise in the workplace as a result of the abuse suffered.

Implementing a domestic abuse policy need not require significant costs for businesses. There are, however, substantial commercial and social benefits to doing so and such a policy can form a vital part of any organisation’s wider commitment to employee health and well-being.

In this regard, you may wish to read our global New Perimeter report on Responding to intimate partner violence.

DLA Piper’s Employment team can advise you on your business’ approach to supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse. assist you with implementing an appropriate policy and provide training to your staff. For further information, please speak to your usual DLA Piper contact or email

You may also wish to fully review your organisation’s diversity and inclusion strategy, and your compliance with legal obligations, by completing the DLA Piper Diversity and Inclusion Index.

Our Employee Wellbeing series: