Domestic Abuse means different things to different people, but there is no stereotypical perpetrator, no stereotypical victim, and no stereotypical domestic abuse incident. In this article, we will look deeper at what domestic abuse really means: the negative impact it has on workplace productivity and, most importantly, the important role the workplace could have in breaking the cycle of domestic abuse.
I am Lucy Whittaker, Founding Director and Lead Trainer, Alpha Vesta CIC.
Alpha Vesta is a Community Interest Company with a very clear mission statement of ‘breaking the cycle of domestic abuse through awareness, prevention and effective and safe early intervention in the workplace’.
Some people would never associate with that term ‘domestic abuse’ or perhaps being a ‘victim’ or ‘perpetrator’ of abuse. But remember victims and perpetrators are everywhere, in a variety of different guises. They may be husbands, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends abusing their intimate partner, or they may be sons, daughters, granddaughters, grandsons, nieces, or nephews, exploiting or abusing another member of the family such as a parent, grandparent, uncle, or aunt.
We see domestic abuse that is underpinned by control and coercion, someone that needs to control everything about that relationship but conversely, we see domestic abuse that is characterised by conflict – additional needs such as mental health issues, substance misuse issues, learning disability or trauma perhaps interact with an already vulnerable home or relationship.
Domestic Abuse isn’t always about violence – it may be based around emotional or psychological abuse, coercive control, financial and economic abuse, or even sexual abuse.
We will stress again that there is no stereotypical perpetrator, no stereotypical victim and no stereotypical domestic abuse incident.
What I want to share with you though is as we begin to consider the important role the Workplace could have in breaking the cycle – is that not only is prevention and early intervention much needed – saving lives and enormous costs around responding to everyone affected; all workplaces are impacted by domestic abuse already; they just don’t necessarily know it or recognise it! This is powerful because it gives employers and workplaces a reason to engage – they are affected too. They just don’t realise it.
Don’t just take my word for it though – let’s look at some of the research on how employers and workplaces themselves have a vested interest in breaking the cycle of domestic abuse.
We know that £14 billion of that overall £66 billion social and economic costs of domestic abuse is a direct cost to the economy.
Would you be surprised if I told you that, on average, in a study conducted by Vodafone and KPMG in 2019 – roughly £316 million is lost to UK businesses just as a result of the work absences due to domestic abuse. Remember, these are just the ones we know about – because generally speaking around half of those in a very controlling and coercive relationship, won’t even know that they are being coercively controlled – it’s that clever! But no-one has ever talked to them about domestic abuse – so how would they even recognise it if it was happening to them or someone close to them?
The impact isn’t just felt through absence though but lateness, lower productivity, poor mental health and wellbeing. Did you know that 21% of those affected will have to take additional time off for court appearances and concerns about their children?
We aren’t done yet though – because in a global study commissioned by Vodafone and conducted by Opinium. 1 in 2 of those affected said their work colleagues were also affected – covering for them, taking on extra workload, managing relentless phone calls and visits to the workplace by the perpetrator. Would you know do you think? If that was happening in your workplace? What would you do? How would you manage it?
Domestic Abuse also affects career progression. Some studies have shown that two colleagues beginning work on the same day, same education, same demographic, for the one experiencing domestic abuse, they will earn on average £6,000 per annum less than the colleague not affected. £6,000 may not seem that much to a lot of people but £6,000 of the average national wage is around 20%.
That global research also highlighted something I found incredibly sad that generally half of those affected by domestic abuse didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because they were either too ashamed or thought it inappropriate to mention. This became even sadder for me because of those interviewed over 2/3 felt safer at work than they did at home and over 2/3 felt they could be themselves at work and not at home.
So not only is the workplace impacted directly by domestic abuse, it also could offer, with the right training and support, the perfect place for someone to reach out and seek help and guidance.
Commit to learning more about the impact and how to support your staff as well as mediate that impact across your workforce.
All of Alpha Vesta’s Training and Consultancy Services are fully-funded across Essex by The National Lottery and The Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex.
Please visit our website at www.alphavesta.com where you can find out more about us as well as sponsorship programmes to support community training in your area.