Skip to content

How can I support employees experiencing domestic abuse and / or sexual violence?

How can I support employees experiencing domestic abuse and / or sexual violence?

Being a good employer includes supporting staff through new or difficult periods in their lives.

Violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence can all have a devastating impact on individuals and their families and a negative impact in the workplace.

Domestic Abuse / Sexual Violence can have a significant impact on an individual whether it happens within or outside of the workplace. It may affect a victim’s productivity, emotional and physical health and they may also face increased risk of workplace violence. Individuals may:

  • frequently be late for work as a result of their partner’s coercive control, they may hide their keys, their uniform, their purse
  • have more days off sick
  • constantly receive calls / texts or emails  from their partner
  • have to rush off at the end of the day
  • they may be concerned about leaving work, not wishing to go home or concerned for their safety.

In a survey by Walby and Allen in 2004, among employed women who suffered domestic violence in the last year, 21% took time off work and 2% lost their jobs as a direct result of the abuse.

Why should I as an employer worry?

In England and Wales domestic abuse costs £1.9 billion a year in lost economic output. This is due to decreased productivity, administrative difficulties from unplanned time off, lost wages and sick pay.

It is inevitable then, that a proportion of your staff are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing such abuse. Furthermore, for those who are experiencing abuse there is a high likelihood that their experience of abuse and their job impact one another; 75% of women who experience domestic abuse and violence are targeted at work – from harassing phone calls and abusive partners arriving at the office unannounced, to physical assaults. In the UK every year, 20% of employed women take time off work because of domestic violence and 2% lose their jobs as a direct result of abuse. 53% of abused workers (male and female) miss at least 3 days from work per month.

Any member of your staff suffering from such violence and abuse could be less productive, and less engaged; you will not be getting the most from your staff as you could. You may also have members of staff who are themselves abusive and perpetrators of domestic abuse which will bring other challenges such as stalking and intimidation in the workplace.

Raising awareness of these issues across your workforce will raise the profile of these issues, removing some of the stigma and secrecy and acknowledging violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence as issues which your organisation recognises can affect staff. In doing so it will make the workplace a safer space for victims and encourage them to come forward earlier, be open about their experiences and in doing so gain access to support more efficiently. The resulting benefits for your organisation are the retention of valued, skilled and motivated employees, which may lead to increased performance and commitment, reductions in staff turnover, absence and training costs.

Statutory guidance will be published under the Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Act 2015 to require all devolved public sector employers to have a workplace policy for violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Whilst this requirement will only exist for public sector employees, private and voluntary businesses should also consider adopting a work place policy.

What can my organisation do to help?

Adopt a violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence workplace policy

An effective workplace policy on violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence can ensure that, as an employer, you are complying with relevant health & safety laws and you have in place effective steps to support staff who are experiencing such abuse or violence.

In 2013 the Equality and Human Rights Commission developed guidance (External link) for developing an effective workplace policy which sets out key considerations and actions.

Once you have a workplace policy in place, promote its availability through posters, leaflets or your organisation’s website. You can use any of our downloadable resources to make your staff aware.

Listen to your employees and seek further advice and support if necessary

You are not expected to be experts in the issues of violence against women, domestic abuse or sexual violence but there are specialist organisations that can help you to help your employees. You can call the Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 80 10 800 for advice and support or you can search our service directory for other organisations that can help.

Provide appropriate  training for staff

It is important that employers understand and recognise the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse, sexual violence and other forms of violence against women and feel confident to refer people to the right support services, should a member of staff disclose. E-learning and other courses available through the National Training Framework will provide you with an awareness and understanding on these matters.  

Policies & Guidance

Find relevant guidance and information on the VAWDASV Act.

Find out more


About Live Fear Free

Live Fear Free is a Welsh Government website, providing information and advice for those suffering with violence against women, domestic abuse and sexual violence.

More information

  • You can follow us on Twitter & Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Facebook