Dealing with domestic abuse in the workplace

News on 25 November 2019

Every person will have some experience of domestic abuse throughout their life. Whether they experience it themselves, or know someone who has gone through it, what they all have in common is the praise for the people who supported them and showed them where to get help.

Stacey has been quieter than normal, she’s stopped coming to work social events, she’s always on her phone, and her absence record has skyrocketed. The only difference between how she is now to how she was before is a new partner.

Having the initial conversation

Stacey’s manager, Karl, was getting increasingly concerned about her, so he decided to have a chat with her. In the meeting he asked Stacey how she was, and if there was anything she wanted to talk to him about. Initially, Stacey clammed up and said that there was nothing going on and everything was fine.

However, a few months later, Stacey approached Karl and asked to speak to him. She broke down and told him that she’s in an abusive relationship, that her partner is controlling, isolating her from friends and family, and is using gas lighting techniques. Karl was glad that Stacey felt comfortable enough to tell him what was going on, but was so surprised by this news, that he wasn’t really sure what to say to her.

Giving advice

Karl realised that giving Stacey advice on this situation wasn’t really something he could do. He’s never been in the same situation to her and doesn’t know what could help or make things worse. Karl asks Stacey how he can help her when she’s in work. Stacey said that she was worried about her partner calling the office all the time. Karl said that he was happy to take these calls and advise her partner that she was busy and not able to take any calls, however Stacey said that this would make things worse. Her partner would then start accusing her of having an affair or say that she wasn’t really in work.

Karl and Stacey agreed to meet on a regular basis to discuss how things were going and what could be done to help Stacey while she was in work. Karl also asked for her permission to discuss this with HR and his Manager so that he could get information on what support was available for her. Due to the confidential nature of this information, without her consent, Karl would not be able to do this.

Sick leave

A few days later, Stacey called in sick. She spoke to one of her colleagues as Karl was unavailable. The reason Stacey gave for calling in sick didn’t make sense to Karl, so he called her back later in the day. Stacey confirmed that she was having problems with her partner and she was really struggling with the situation and needed to take some time off. When Karl relayed this information to his manager, Justin, he wasn’t as supportive as Karl and couldn’t understand why he had to pay her sick pay because she was having an argument with her partner.

What should you do?

While Justin was initially annoyed, when Karl explained the situation to him and the full extent of what Stacey was going through, he became more understanding of the situation. This wasn’t “just an argument with her partner”, it was a lot more than that. Stacey was the subject of domestic abuse.

Karl and Justin agreed that they had a few options for looking at this situation. They could allow Stacey to take this as sick leave (as this was affecting her mental health), they could offer her the option of taking holidays, or they could offer her the option of taking unpaid leave.

What else can we do?

Karl and Justin recognised that Stacey needed help. But going through a situation of domestic abuse can mean that you’re not ready to take action yet. They gave Stacey lots of information on what support was out there for people in her situation.

Should you report it?

If there is an immediate danger, you can report situations like to this to Police.

Further reading (this is an App to download onto a phone where instances of abuse can be recorded. These records are not stored on the device. Employers can also use this App)