Domestic violence and abuse protocol

The following are extracts from the protocol.

Aim

The aim of the protocol is to:

  • provide a framework to Managers for offering support and guidance to any member of staff disclosing they have been the victim of domestic violence or abuse
  • direct the victims of domestic violence and abuse to agencies who can provide further support and guidance

Definition of domestic violence and abuse 

Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

Domestic abuse may be physical, such as slapping, punching or kicking, but it is often the emotional and mental abuse which takes it toll. Constant criticism, ridicule or comments are directed at the victim to make them feel humiliated, worthless and isolated. Over time a victim of domestic abuse can lose their confidence and self esteem which can have an impact on all aspects of their life.

Guidelines for managers on how to conduct the meeting with employee

When a person discloses abuse the guidelines are as follows: 

  • listen, provide space to talk and do not pressurise the person to take action
  • give a positive message that domestic abuse is a serious crime and every individual has the right to live a life free from abuse in any form
  • ask the employee if they want to report it to the police or any other authority and support them to do this
  • give information about local support agencies; it is important not to give advice, as bad or inaccurate advice is worse that not giving any at all; signposting members of staff information on agencies
  • discuss the specific steps that can be taken to help them stay safe in the workplace
  • put in place any practical measures eg flexible working, change of work location, change of hours
  • ask the employee if they have children and encourage them to keep the children safe; if a disclosure is made in relation to their welfare and concerns for the children are identified/disclosed a referral in accordance with the Child Protection policy should be considered
  • WDC Housing Options staff can provide advice on all housing issues in relation to DVA; again, Housing Options staff are not trained experts on giving full emotional support – this would need to be sought from external agencies; but Housing Options can assist with a referral to the most appropriate agency
  • be prepared to offer the same standard of support on all occasions no matter how many times the same employee comes forward; remaining in the relationship is part of the nature of DVA
  • to put a safety and support plan in place for each person indentified as a victim of DVA which is completed in conjunction with the victim
  • if any party would like their trade union involved this should be encouraged 

A decision needs to be made by a senior manager, in discussion with the employee, around information management with other employees within the organisation.

Support mechanisms for the employee

Support is also available through the employee assistance helpline and from local support agencies. 

In addition, support and guidance is available from the Unison Welfare Officer.

Recognising the warning signs of domestic violence and abuse

It is impossible to know with certainty what goes on behind closed doors, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms of emotional abuse and domestic violence. If you notice any warning signs of abuse in a colleague, take them seriously. However, please be cautious as these symptoms can also be caused by other issues, so assumptions should not be made.

General warning signs of domestic abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • seem afraid or anxious to please their partner
  • go along with everything their partner says and does
  • check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
  • receive frequent harassing phone calls from their partner

Warning signs of physical violence

People who are being physically abused may:

  • have frequent injuries, with the excuse of ‘accidents’
  • frequently make visits to accident and emergency
  • frequently miss work without clear explanations
  • dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (eg wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)
  • have eating disorders, rapid loss of weight
  • use alcohol and drugs (eg tranquillisers)
  • suffer with stress related ailments – headache, irritable bowel syndrome
  • have poor skin condition or poor skin hygiene
  • experience signs of hair loss – consistent with hair pulling

Warning signs of psychological abuse

People who are being abused may:

  • have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
  • show major personality changes (eg an outgoing person becomes withdrawn)
  • be depressed, anxious, suffering panic attacks
  • show evidence of self harm

Issues that may arise as a consequence of DV

  • Poor attendance – ensure that employee has a return to work meeting, which may give the employee an opportunity to discuss any issues they may have: please refer to the Sickness Absence and Ill Health policy and procedure for further guidance on how to manage attendance
  • Lack of confidence
  • Motivational issues: please refer to the Capability procedure for more guidance on how to help employees with motivational issues
  • Poor work performance: please refer to the Capability procedure for more guidance on how to manage poor work performance
  • Aggressive behaviour at work and/or violence in workplace: please refer to the Discipline policy

Tackling domestic abuse