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Domestic abuse and the workplace toolkit

This NEU toolkit is designed to support members affected at work by domestic abuse and to help other members, reps and leaders support them.

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What is domestic abuse?

Sometimes referred to as domestic violence, domestic abuse in the home can take many forms. The government defines it as “Any incident of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults, aged 16 and over, who are or have been intimate partners or are family members, regardless of gender and sexuality.” This definition includes so-called ‘honour’-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

You can find more detail on the types of abuse in:

Who is affected by domestic abuse?

Domestic abuse happens across all social backgrounds and cultures and causes lifelong harm to victims and their children. Anyone can be affected by domestic abuse. However, in the vast majority of cases, domestic abuse is experienced by women and is perpetrated by men.

Disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic abuse. It is estimated that four to nine in every 100 pregnant women are abused during their pregnancy or soon after the birth. Bi women and trans women are also particularly affected.

For other groups of people, the inequalities they face in society, such as racism, ableism, homophobia and poverty will compound the impact of domestic abuse and pose challenges to seeking support.

What are the signs of domestic abuse?

Here are some possible signs to be aware of:

  • Changes in behaviour including uncharacteristic withdrawal, depression, anxiety, distraction or problems with concentration.
  • Changes in the quality of work for no apparent reason.
  • Arriving late or leaving early.
  • Reduced attendance or increased sick leave or high presenteeism without an explanation
  • Needing regular time off for appointments.
  • Taking frequent or excessive calls during work time from a partner.
  • Repeated injuries or unexplained bruising or explanations that do not fit with the injuries.
  • Substance use/dependence.
  • Inappropriate or excessive clothing (that might be hiding injuries or bruising).

It is not easy to spot the signs, or to start a conversation with someone you think may be being abused.

If you are worried about someone knowing you have visited this website, please read this advice from Women's Aid.

How can I help?

The NEU recommends taking what is known as the 4Rs approach: recognise; respond; record; refer.


Recognise means to look out for signs of abuse.


Respond is to listen and respond appropriately: take the disclosure seriously, don’t be judgmental about the victim’s response to the perpetrator’s behaviour; alert them to support available under your workplace domestic abuse policy if you have one; do not give advice beyond your expertise; provide information about the National Domestic Abuse Helpline and other specialist domestic violence organisations that can offer expert support.


Record the discussion in a confidential email to yourself (using your work email).


As a peer, you should reassure your colleague that your discussion will remain confidential unless an exception applies (see the NEU model policy for examples of where information might have to be disclosed). You can encourage your colleague to disclose to their line manager or head teacher, but you should respect and accept their thoughts and ideas on the way forward.

If you are affected by the disclosure, you can seek counselling from the Education Support Partnership.


Workplace domestic abuse model policy

The aim of this model policy on domestic abuse is to provide a framework that schools can adopt to support victims and challenging the behaviour of perpetrators.

Frequently asked questions

Your employer has a duty to take steps to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of you and your colleagues. Find out whether your employer has a domestic violence/abuse workplace policy. You could speak to your NEU workplace rep, or health and safety rep or line manager or head teacher if you don’t have a rep, to let them know that you have taken this courageous step. It should be possible for you to agree a workplace safety plan.

Your school should consider: reviewing school security; sharing a photograph of your ex-partner with reception and security staff, with your agreement; reminding staff not to share personal information with third parties; and screening phone calls. You may also need to discuss your journey to work, or parking and access to the school site. You’ll find more safety tips in the NEU model policy and guidance.

It’s entirely up to you to decide who you are out to at work. If you feel comfortable disclosing, you can ask your line manager to keep this information confidential. You can also still ask for support without disclosing that you are gay. Do read the NEU resources on domestic abuse above and support for LGBT+ educators.

Discuss with your line manager a safety plan and other support that could help you. This should include adjusting your objectives to take account of your circumstances. Consider discussing your situation with your NEU workplace rep/health and safety rep, as a rep can help you get the support you need at work if your employer is not sympathetic. Specialist agencies, including LGBT+ agencies, can advise on steps that you can take at work and at home.

You should ask for paid time off to move out. Try to speak to your NEU workplace rep/health and safety rep or, if you don’t have a rep, your line manager or head teacher to let them know your circumstances and your plans. This is a health and safety matter and your employer should support you as you take this important step to protect yourself. You may be able to use a workplace policy or procedure to secure time off.

Take a look at the NEU resources on domestic abuse above and discuss with your rep, line manager or head, what other steps can be taken to support you at work. You should also make contact with a specialist service for abuse survivors who can advise on strategies for protecting yourself outside of work, especially at the point of leaving a controlling partner.

You should seek specialist support right away to look at your options. Links to external support agencies are listed in our Domestic Abuse and the Workplace guide. You can also discuss your situation confidentially with a specialist counsellor at the Education Support Partnership. Your partner is responsible for their behaviour, not you.

We advise that you disclose your circumstance to a trusted colleague at work – this might be your NEU rep, a friend, your line manage or your principal. Disclosing your situation can give you space to talk about a workplace safety plan and other support that you could seek at work. A workplace rep can make representations on your behalf to improve your situation at work. If you don’t have a rep, please contact the NEU AdviceLine for advice and support for the forthcoming meeting.

You are right to be seeking help. Being violent or abusive, whether at work or outside work is never acceptable. It can affect your job and it could affect your career as a teacher because it can question your suitability to work with children. Your employer will want to investigate the matter and might consider disciplinary action.

A range of support is available depending on whether you are a man, a woman and whether you are in a straight or same sex relationship. Support and advice can be sought from the Respect phoneline (Call: 0808 8024040). Your partner has a right to seek support for themselves too.

Your NEU workplace rep/health and safety rep might also be able to assist.

If you need further advice on the impact of domestic abuse at work, you can contact your NEU representative in the first instance. If there is no NEU rep in your workplace contact the NEU AdviceLine on 0345 811 8111.

Further contact details can be found on our Contact Us page.

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Download and put up a NEU domestic abuse poster in your staffroom and in each staff toilet stall to raise awareness of domestic abuse and the specialist support available for survivors.

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