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Home / News and Insights / Blogs / Employment Law / 298: Government asks employers to provide support for victims of domestic abuse

Several recent Government initiatives highlight the increasing expectations on employers in supporting victims of domestic abuse.

The Domestic Abuse Bill currently going through Parliament will introduce a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes coercive or controlling behaviour, as well as emotional and economic abuse. It will also include measures to improve protection for victims.

On 14 January 2021, the Government published an open letter to all UK employers outlining practical steps employers can take to raise awareness of domestic abuse, including how to notice warning signs and help workers access the support they need. The Government is also establishing a working group including employers, representatives of victims and trade unions to consider how to best support employers, for example, through model policies and training.

Together with the open letter, the Government published a report of its review into workplace support for victims of domestic abuse. Key recommendations for employers include:

  • raise awareness of domestic abuse as a workplace issue, including having procedures in place to spot the signs of abuse and to signpost concerns to relevant specialist services. Ideally this should involve senior management;
  • develop and implement a workplace policy and ensure that it is embedded into the wider organisational culture and framework. The policy should set out signs of domestic abuse, roles and responsibilities, education and training, and steps to ensure safety in the workplace;
  • consider what can be offered practically in terms of financial assistance, flexibility and paid leave, for example, paying salary into separate accounts, access to counselling or access to time and space to make calls; and
  • appoint Domestic Abuse Workplace Champions trained to spot the signs of domestic abuse, act as a confidante and signpost support services where appropriate.

Acas has updated its pandemic guidance to include a section on domestic violence and abuse. This states that employers have a legal duty of care to their employees and should look out for signs of domestic abuse and respond appropriately, for example, by agreeing safe communications, being flexible on working hours, and offering support. Employers should also keep a record of any reports made by employees regarding domestic abuse and what action was taken.

In addition to the Government’s recommendation to introduce a domestic abuse policy, Acas also advises employers to consider developing a policy in consultation with employees and trade union or employee representatives. Employers are therefore advised to consider developing specific domestic abuse policies, as well as taking steps to ensure that sufficient support is available in the workplace.

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