COVID-19: domestic abuse and employees

Measures announced by the government to tackle COVID-19 (coronavirus) have seen people’s day-to-day life be drastically altered. Home working, social distancing and self-isolation can cause anxiety for those who are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is a crime and unacceptable in any situation.
This toolkit provides actions for employers to support employees at risk or experiencing domestic abuse.

2019 – 1.6 million and 786,000 men experience domestic abuse

According to the office of National Statistics an estimated 1.6 million women and 786,000 men experienced domestic abuse in England and Wales in the year ending March 2019.

And in 2018, 173 people were killed in domestic violence-related homicides, according to data obtained by the BBC from 43 police forces across the UK.

What is domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse can include but is not limited to:

  • Coercive control and manipulation by psychological means of someone into doubting their own sanity.
  • economic abuse
  • online abuse
  • verbal abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • sexual abuse.

Domestic abuse increases in UK

Fears are growing in the UK that the stay-at-home COVID-19 (coronavirus) guidelines may leave domestic abuse victims feeling especially isolated, very vulnerable and exposed. Home is not always the safe haven that it should be.

International rise in domestic abuse

Domestic abuse has already increased elsewhere in the world as more people at risk from abuse are forced to stay indoors with their abusers due to the pandemic.

COVID-19 isolation guidance

  • Domestic abuse victims are still allowed to leave home to seek help at refuges

Domestic abuse victims are still allowed to leave home to seek help at refuges despite rules to stop coronavirus spreading. The home secretary, Priti Patel, has said the government would protect victims, saying it has given £1.6bn to local councils to help those in need and was working with charities.

Anyone who is at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse, is still able to leave and seek refuge. Refuges remain open, and the police will provide support to all individuals who are being abused – whether physically, emotionally, or otherwise.

Priti Patel has also pledged to crack down on domestic abusers and the government recently pledged £15 million to tackle domestic abuse crimes.

It comes after police warned the new rules made victims more vulnerable. Health concerns and job losses may also add pressure, causing some people to experience abuse for the first time.

More information
For more advice and guidance on domestic abuse, please see Domestic abuse: how to get help