UK workers unsure how to help colleagues experiencing abuse

Less than half (40%) of British workers said they would not know how to help a colleague experiencing domestic abuse, indicating the need for visible support across UK workplaces.

A further 14% said they were unsure whether they would be confident or not, leaving just 46% confident in dealing with abuse.

Domestic abuse refuge charity Hestia has released five top tips to help employees support one another in response to the survey.

The steps are:

  1. Access advice and information through the free BrightSky app
  2. Ask the person privately if everything is okay at home
  3. Believe the victim if they disclose and tell them support is available
  4. Agree a plan if the perpetrator visits or contacts the staff member through work channels
  5. Let your colleague know work is a safe place and they will be supported

More resources:

CIPD employer guide on domestic abuse support

Spotting signs of domestic violence

Introducing new domestic abuse policy

Paid leave for domestic abuse victims at South Ayrshire Council

Speaking to HR magazine Sue Harper, the charity’s head of domestic abuse prevention, highlighted how national lockdowns threw domestic abuse into the spotlight.

Now, she said, the charity is making sure businesses have taken the right steps to respond effectively to abuse going forward.

She said: “It's important to remember that employers are not specialists, and their role isn't to fix the employees' situation but to signpost to a domestic abuse service.

“We opened our advice line so employers can ask questions before approaching the situation with confidence. Our specialist workers provide simple guidance on how to start the conversation through a private chat over coffee and by asking how are things at home and if everything is okay.”

Elizabeth Filkin, chair of the Employers' Initiative on Domestic Abuse, also urged more people to reach out to colleagues.

She told HR magazine: “If you are concerned about a colleague ask ‘How are things at home for you?’ This sometimes allows a victim to disclose so that specialist help can be given.”

Filkin also advised HR to make information about domestic abuse accessible in the workplace through the company's intranet, induction material and posters around the business.

Harper added: “The workplace needs to be a safe and comfortable environment for victims to seek help, but employers need to ensure they have the resources in place once they do.

“As working from home comes to an end, we need to make it clear that domestic abuse is everyone's business and that it starts with employers.”

Domestic abuse support resources for employers and colleagues:

Hestia’s survey was conducted by Opinium with a national representative figure of 2001 people between the 17 and 20 August 2021.