The government has issued a call to all UK employers via an open letter to be more vigilant in spotting signs of domestic abuse among their staff, ensure they are noticing warning signs and help workers access the support they need.
The open letter comes as the government publishes the final report from its Review into Workplace Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse, which was launched in June to collect evidence on what more government and employers can do to try and tackle all forms of domestic abuse.
In light of the findings of the report, the government has announced plans to consult on the steps that can be taken so survivors can better exercise their existing employment rights (such as the right to request flexible working).
The government will also establish a working group including employers, representatives of domestic abuse victims and trade unions to convene regularly to establish practical solutions that employers can implement in the workplace, and to measure their impact on supporting survivors.
A lack of awareness of warning signs, stigma around talking about domestic abuse
in the workplace, and a lack of knowledge about specialist services is preventing domestic abuse survivors getting the help they need in the workplace, the report found.
The report also found that stereotyping of the types of people that can be affected by domestic abuse is hindering support, despite clear evidence showing that it can happen to anyone, no matter their gender, age, ethnicity or economic status.
The government’s Domestic Abuse Bill is continuing to make its passage through Parliament. The Bill will bring into law a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes coercive or controlling behaviour as well as emotional and economic abuse and non-fatal strangulation. Thompsons argues that there are a number of key points in favour of change which include the fact that:
- Domestic abuse is currently charged as common assault which does not reflect the severity of the infringement
- Charges of common assault must be brought within six months
- Freestanding offences of strangulation or asphyxiation would increase the time limit and cement the severity of the infringement.
The government has also published guidance on how to get help during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. This asks employers to make clear to employees that they want to help if they are facing domestic abuse. The guidance also asks employers to stay in regular contact with employees whom they know, or fear, may be facing abuse.
You can read the open letter in full here.
You can read the government review into workplace support for victims of domestic abuse here.