How can HR support domestic violence victims at work?

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With domestic violence as a very real concern worldwide, the question has to be asked: what actions should HR take to properly support domestic violence victims within the workplace?
Claire Brattey, associate director of People + Culture Strategies, spoke to HRM about methods of handling this type of difficult situation.
“The first thing employers need to do is ensure everyone has an appreciation of what domestic violence is about,” she said. “Many people have a mindset that it always involves a physical assault, which is not the case.”
The most basic definition of domestic violence involves one person in a relationship using violence or abuse to control the other person. It is an ongoing pattern of behaviour designed to control the victim through fear.
“Raising employees’ awareness of the meaning of domestic violence will assist employers in developing meaningful policies around this issue,” Brattey said.
Actually implementing these policies opens up HR to a number of different responsibilities.
“When employers are considering how best to manage the issue within the workplace, they need to be prepared to deal with an issue that is complicated and is not likely to be resolved quickly or easily.”
When creating these policies, HR will need to consider how to handle:
  • The employee who is experiencing domestic violence
  • The employee who has a family member experiencing domestic violence
  • The employee who is a perpetrator of domestic violence
  • The impact on the wider workforce
While some firms already offer additional days off for victims of domestic violence, other companies may decide to offer extra discretional leave instead, Brattey said.
“By doing it this way, employees do not feel labelled and are perhaps more willing to discuss the issue and seek support.”
While the system notes that discretionary leave was taken, HR can be in the background providing additional levels of support. This can include also offering flexible working arrangements for the victim.
“Some organisations have had requests from grandparents who need some flexibility in their working arrangements so that they can collect their grandchildren from school or be at home on some days to care for them if the parent has to go to court,” she said.

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