Blog Article | 29 November 2023

Guest blog: Why domestic abuse is a business issue… and what employers can do

29 November 2023

Author: Susan Bright, CEO of Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA)

During 16 Days of Activism we’ve invited other organisations to shed light on how they’re combatting gender-based violence and domestic abuse. Join us as we learn, explore strategies, share stories and advocate for a future that ensures all victims are supported.

Domestic abuse is all around us

Across the UK, a quarter of women and around a sixth of men are likely to experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. This means that most employers will have people in their organisation who are affected by domestic abuse. For those individuals, work may be their only safe place and the actions of an employer can change and potentially save that person’s life.  

Domestic abuse is an insidious, largely hidden crime, which impacts children, families, and the wider community. It extends beyond physical violence and includes sexual abuse, violent and threatening behaviour, controlling or coercive behaviour, economic abuse and psychological or emotional abuse. At its heart lies control. Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status or background. 

Employers are often in a unique position to provide both a place of safety and a wide range of support to those facing domestic abuse, including those who want to escape from an abusive relationship.

For too long domestic abuse was perceived to be a private matter which happened behind closed doors. We have moved a long way since then in recognising that everyone has a part to play in calling it out and supporting those who are affected. However, events over recent years have exacerbated the issue, with calls to domestic abuse helplines increasing by over 60% since the first Covid national lockdown and the cost-of-living crisis adding further stress to the lives of many.

Why domestic abuse is a business issue

Employers have an important role to play as part of the overall response to domestic abuse. They have a responsibility towards their employees, with guidance accompanying the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 making clear that as part of their duty of care, employers should consider the impact of domestic abuse on their employees. Employers are often in a unique position to provide both a place of safety and a wide range of support to those facing domestic abuse, including those who want to escape from an abusive relationship.

There is a strong business case for employers to act. The cost to the economy is considerable, with an estimated £14 billion lost from time off work and reduced productivity. Those suffering from domestic abuse will find it hard to perform at their best (or at all) in the workplace. Domestic abuse can extend into the workplace, through abusive calls and messages to the victim or their colleagues; it can have a wider adverse impact on morale within the workplace, as well as on an organisation’s reputation. 

The Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA)

EIDA was set up in 2018 to support employers across the UK to tackle domestic abuse. Since that time, we have grown to a network of over 1,400 employers, who collectively employ at least 25% of the UK’s workforce. We focus on four key activities:

  • Raising awareness about domestic abuse amongst employers, inspiring and supporting them to tackle domestic abuse.
  • Providing the tools an employer needs to take effective action (including a template domestic abuse policy, guidance and case studies).
  • Supporting employers to share best practice and learn from each other, including through resources and events.
  • Working with government, domestic abuse sector partners and academics to provide the latest guidance and to champion change.

Practical steps for employers

Having a domestic abuse policy sends a clear message that domestic abuse is not tolerated, and that the employer will provide support to their employees. It can be very difficult for people to seek support given the stigma that still surrounds domestic abuse. Whilst many employers who do not have a policy can and do provide support, having a domestic policy removes a barrier to seeking that help. 

It is not necessary for employers to become experts in domestic abuse. What is important is having an awareness of domestic abuse, learning to spot the signs, responding if someone comes forward and referring them to the support they need.

Here are some examples of the practical support provided by EIDA members to their people. There is no one-size-fits all approach; it will depend on what the individual needs to support them to respond to their own situation.

  • Provide a quiet area where the employee can make calls or meet with those supporting them.
  • Agree a safe and confidential method of communication with the employee.
  • Allow the employee to move to a different office or location to work, especially if they are in customer facing roles.
  • Provide flexible working hours or paid time off so the employee can attend meetings with schools, social workers or court hearings.
  • Change an employee’s work number if they are being harassed.
  • Ensure the employee does not work alone or in isolated areas.
  • Alert reception and security staff and create a plan of action should the abusive person come to the premises.
  • Provide support where an employee decides to leave an abusive situation: some EIDA members provide free accommodation for a short period, an advance on salary for those facing economic abuse or non-repayable financial support.
  • Signpost employees to providers of specialist domestic abuse services.

Domestic abuse is everyone’s business … 

Please join EIDA’s network of employers and work with us to change and save the lives of people in your workplace affected by domestic abuse. 

Membership of EIDA is free and employers can join here: 

Susan Bright is the CEO of the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA), a network of over 1,400 employers taking effective action on domestic abuse.

This blog was written in a personal capacity and may not reflect the view of the organisation.


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