Domestic abuse is an issue for all employers - Business in the Community

Domestic abuse is an issue for all employers

An updated toolkit on domestic abuse for employers has been co-created by Business in the Community, Public Health England, with support from the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse and funding from the Insurance Charities. The vital resource has been updated to provide a broader definition of domestic abuse and reflect how the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the rates of domestic abuse in the UK. The toolkit gives businesses the information and confidence to recognise and respond to signs of abuse in employees.

The scale of the challenge is clear, and the need for employers to play a part in tackling it is imperative.

In the year before the pandemic, 2.3 million people experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales; of which two thirds were women.1 Two out of every ten offences recorded by the police are related to domestic abuse and each month, two women and one man are killed by a current or former partner.2 

However, during the pandemic domestic abuse rates skyrocketed. During the early months of the pandemic (April – June 2020), the charity Refuge reported an estimated 65% increase in demand to its helpline, and a 700% increase in visits to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline website.3 And yet, while 86% of companies believe they have a duty of care towards domestic abuse victims, only 5% have a dedicated policy for tackling this issue.4

With the COVID-19 pandemic having broken down the barriers of work and the home, many victims have been locked in with their abusers. This has created what some experts are calling a ‘perpetrators’ paradise’. The Surviving Economic Abuse charity has reported that perpetrators have taken advantage of lockdowns to control their victims, by hiding their work equipment, controlling their finances and lying to employers that their victims had broken lockdown restrictions.5

Since its creation in 2018, this toolkit has now been updated to reflect the coronavirus pandemic’s effect on domestic abuse, and offers new steps for business leaders, line managers and HR professionals to follow when an employee discloses abuse. The toolkit urges employers to have open discussions about domestic abuse, and recommends businesses create a policy to encourage openness and for employees to feel confident to disclose what is happening to them.

Louise Aston, Wellbeing Director at Business in the Community, said: “Employers need to step up and recognise that domestic abuse is an issue for all employers. COVID-19 and new ways of working have magnified the scale of domestic abuse in the UK, and people working from home are being locked in with their abusers. Working from home has created a perpetrators’ paradise.

All employers have a legal responsibility and duty of care to safeguard the health and wellbeing of their employees, wherever they work. We would be in a healthier, safer and more productive work environment if all employers created policies to support their colleagues. Employers could save lives if victims felt able to speak up and be listened to. There is an urgent need to smash the stigma that surrounds domestic abuse, once and for all.”

Labour Markets Minister Paul Scully, said: “It is a horrible but unavoidable truth that the pandemic has meant that survivors of domestic abuse are likely to be spending more time with their abusers.  Time spent working or at work can be a refuge from abuse, and it’s more important now than ever that employers recognise the vital role they can play in connecting survivors with the support they need. We’re exploring what more employers can do to support workers through our Domestic Abuse Review. I know appetite for change is there, and I’d encourage all employers to take action and make use of this fantastic toolkit.” 

Elizabeth Filkin, Founder and Chair of Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse, added: “Our members cite the toolkit as one of the most comprehensive and useful resources they have used to ensure they are playing their part in tackling domestic abuse. Most importantly, many have told us they return to it time and again for information and advice. Given this, and the enormous changes that we’ve seen in the world of work over the past three years, we are delighted to support this update, to ensure employers can be as effective as possible in supporting their staff. After all, domestic abuse really is everyone’s business.”

Annali-Joy Thornicroft, CEO of The Insurance Charities, said: “In recent years we have supported a growing number of people who have come to us as a result of domestic abuse. In addition to the financial help we can offer, we wanted to go one step further and really help tackle the issue. We’re therefore delighted to have once again sponsored this vital resource to help employers and their colleagues.”


Media Contact

Erin Johnson, Press Officer.; 0771 310 1878 

Notes to the Editor

  1. The Office for National Statistics, Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2020.
  2. Office for National Statistics, Intimate personal violence and partner abuse, 2015
  3. Refuge, Covid Service Report, 2021
  4. Vodafone, Toolkit on domestic violence and abuse at work: Recognise, respond and refer, 2020
  5. People Management, ‘Domestic abusers hiding work equipment during lockdown, study warns’,  2021

About the Domestic Abuse Toolkit
First created in 2018 by Public Health England (PHE) and Business in the Community, to be an invaluable resource for employers wanting to act against domestic abuse. The toolkit was informed by an evidence review produced by PHE, and the BEIS Home Office Workplace Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse report. The toolkit was published by Public Health England and Business in the Community, supported by The Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse and sponsored by The Insurance Charities in 2018 and now again in 2021.

The updated toolkit includes new resources, initiatives and case studies. It is a guide for employers, attending to the challenges they face when seeking to implement domestic abuse policies and support, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic which has resulted in new ways of working.

About Business in the Community
Business in the community is the oldest and largest business-led membership organisation dedicated to responsible business. We were created nearly 40 years ago by HRH The Prince of Wales to champion responsible business.   

We inspire, engage and challenge members and we mobilise that collective strength as a force for good in society to:   

  • Develop a skilled and inclusive workforce for today and tomorrow; 
  • Build thriving communities where people want to live and work; 
  • Innovate to sustain and repair our planet.    

About The Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse
The EIDA empower businesses to take positive action for their employees affected by abuse. As a leading business network, they bring together the experience, expertise and best practice of their members and partners. They provide practical guidance and support to any employer wanting to act. As the independent voice of businesses tackling domestic abuse, they endeavour to bring about constructive change, working with government, charities, and opinion formers to stop domestic abuse and to get help to victims.