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Developing a Workplace Policy on Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse

Guidance for Employers

1.1 This Guidance has been produced by the Department of Health and the Department of Justice in line with the Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Strategy, published in March 2016.

1.2 It has been developed in partnership with key stakeholders to provide advice on how employers across the public, private, voluntary and community sectors can develop increased awareness and more effective responses to domestic and sexual violence and abuse, for the benefit of all staff.

1.3 Domestic and sexual violence and abuse is a serious problem in Northern Ireland. It occurs right across our society and it has devastating consequences for the victims and their families.

1.4 In 2017/18 the 24 Hour Domestic and Sexual Violence Helpline answered 16,988 calls and yet we know that the majority of incidents go under-reported and many victims remain silent.

1.5 This guide focuses on supporting employees who have been affected by, or are at risk of, domestic and/or sexual violence and abuse. By considering these guidelines and by drawing up a workplace policy and associated support mechanisms, employers can fulfil their duty of care to their employees and help create a safe and supportive workplace for all.

Why is this a Workplace Issue?

2.9 Home and work issues cannot always be separated and domestic and sexual violence can impact greatly on the working life of someone who is being abused. A person can continue to experience the violence and abuse in the workplace through, for example, abusive or threatening phone calls or emails and can be particularly vulnerable going to or from their place of work. All of this can affect their performance, attendance, timekeeping, career prospects and job security.

2.10 Other workers and colleagues can also be affected as they too could experience threatening or intimidating behaviour from the perpetrator and more particular issues can arise where both the perpetrator and the victim work in the same workplace or location.

2.11 A survey conducted by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in 2014 into the impact of domestic violence on the workplace found that a third of the 1,734 people in Northern Ireland who responded had experienced domestic violence. Nearly all respondents said they thought that it had an impact on the working lives of employees.1

2.12 By having a Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Workplace Policy in place it is possible to create a safe and supportive working environment.