Ealing Council has become one of the first local authorities in the UK to launch a staff domestic violence policy in a bid to break the taboo that surrounds the subject.
The council wants to make the workplace a safe environment to talk about domestic violence, and the policy gives victims and managers step-by-step guidance on how to tackle the issue.
Figures from the Metropolitan Police show that there were 2,760 reported cases of domestic violence in Ealing last year – the sixth highest figure for a London borough. Across the UK, domestic violence affects one in four women at a cost to employers of about £1.35bn, according to Home Office figures.
The effects of domestic violence are associated with many direct and indirect costs, such as reduced productivity and increased ab-senteeism and staff turnover.
Susan Folwell, Ealing’s wellbeing adviser, said the council recognised that domestic violence has an impact on staff attendance, productivity and retention.
“Domestic violence is a topic that, in the past, many employers have seen as irrelevant,” she told Personnel Today. “Our workforce is two-thirds female and many live in the borough so it may be an issue that has affected them or will do in future.”
Folwell said domestic violence was a hidden subject in the workplace, along with drug and alcohol misuse.
The council plans to introduce specialist management training aimed at recognising the signs of violence and asking employees the right questions. The policy will be reviewed at the end of this year by the council’s HR director Chris Harman.
Last year, some of the UK’s best-known employers joined forces to fight domestic violence. Led by high-street retailer the Body Shop, founding members of the Corporate Alliance against Domestic Violence include KPMG, the BBC, AOL/Time Warner and the NHS.