How domestic abuse affects women and their workplace
Domestic abuse follows women to work and not only impacts on their health and well-being, but can also affect their colleagues and ultimately the company they work for. It can disrupt the smooth running of a business by causing reduced productivity, increased absenteeism and adversely affecting staff retention.
The impact on a staff member
It is common for victim-survivors to be targeted in and around the workplace. Domestic abuse has a profound impact on women’s capacity to work. It can have long-term consequences for women and causes damage to their physical health, mental health and well-being. Women report experiencing trauma, stress, anxiety, and depression as a result of domestic abuse and can struggle to find appropriate support in the workplace. Domestic abuse can affect victim-survivors’ capacity to work with men, particularly in situations where there is an existing gender or power imbalance. It can have a short or medium-term effect on women’s ability to manage challenging situations, interact with others, or experience career advancement and development
Women in all job types are likely to prefer to avoid disclosure to their employers, but women in senior roles are particularly likely to seek to avoid “victim” status. There is a perception that senior employees or peers (who are more likely to be male the higher up an organisation a woman rises) may wonder whether a woman experiencing domestic abuse is suitable for the job if it is perceived that she "cannot even take care of her own family problems.”
Domestic abuse can cause financial instability or loss of employment because of unexplained lateness or absences. Women often require to take time off work to seek help from specialist support agencies, attend doctor’s appointments or move to a new house. In some cases, they may even leave a job to avoid their perpetrator. It is important that staff whose performance or attendance is suffering due to domestic abuse are given the support they need.
The impact on colleagues
Domestic abuse also affects people who are in the victim-survivor’s life on a regular basis. This can include work colleagues and this in turn can affect your business. The impact on colleagues can include:
- Having to fill in for absent colleagues, or colleagues who are under-performing;
- Decreased productivity or being distracted from their own work;
- Increased stress or anxiety from being followed to or from work, or being subject to questioning about the victim-survivor’s contact details or locations;
- Trying to protect the victim-survivor from unwanted phone calls or visits;
- Feeling helpless and unsure about how to intervene to support a colleague;
- Experiencing a negative impact on their own mental and emotional health, especially if they may also be experiencing abuse themselves;
- Increased staff absence or turnover of key people; and
- Unknowingly assisting the perpetrator to locate their partner or by covering up for the perpetrator at work.
The impact on the workplace
Domestic abuse is estimated to cost the UK economy over £66 billion per year, which includes an estimated £14 billion lost due to decreased productivity, administrative difficulties from unplanned time off, lost wages and sick pay. Domestic abuse can have an adverse impact on staff morale, as well as on a business’s image and reputation.
It therefore makes good business sense for you to support employees who are experiencing or who have experienced domestic abuse.