Domestic abuse and workplace support for victims and survivors
The Domestic Abuse Bill is currently in the process of passing through Parliament and is due to go through the report stage in March.
The measures in the bill seek to:
- Promote awareness – to put abuse at the top of everyone’s agenda, including by legislating for the first time for a statutory definition of domestic abuse.
- Protect and support victims – including by introducing a new Domestic Abuse Protection Notice and Order.
- Transform the justice response – including by helping victims to give their best evidence in the criminal courts through the use of video evidence, screens and other special measures. Also ensuring that victims of abuse do not suffer further trauma in family court proceedings by being cross-examined by their abuser.
- Improve performance – the new Domestic Abuse Commissioner will help drive consistency and better performance in the response to domestic abuse across all local areas and agencies.
Between June and November 2020, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) undertook a review to examine how victims of domestic abuse can be supported in the workplace and how to give employers the confidence and knowledge to do so. A report of the review was published in January 2021.
The review found that, although many employers want to support staff and promote wellbeing, line managers and HR professionals can lack confidence in knowing what to do, which may result in an inappropriate response.
The report noted that domestic abuse is often a hidden crime and can be difficult to spot. It also highlighted the fact that the pandemic has meant the loss of a safe space for many employees, who are the victims of domestic abuse. Victims reported negative impacts of the pandemic on their mental health ability, ability to seek support and on the level of abuse they experience.
A majority of responses from the consultation identified a workplace policy as best practice and the report details what a policy should include and how it could be best developed and implemented.
Acas and the CIPD have responded to the government’s report. Both organisations provide detailed advice to employers, which include:
- Raising awareness of the issue of domestic abuse by introducing a domestic abuse policy, in consultation with employees and trade union representatives.
- Developing a culture of openness, so that employees know they will be supported if they seek help.
- Providing appropriate training for line managers on how to effectively support members of staff.
- Offering flexibility to support the wellbeing of staff, in order for them to attend counselling, legal and finance appointments.
- Signposting employees to supportive services.
CEFM will draft a model domestic abuse policy once the final text of the Domestic Abuse Bill 2019‑21 is published. The bill is currently scheduled for the report stage in the House of Lords on 8 March 2021.