Domestic abuse
Domestic abuse and the workplace: NEU model policy

Supporting victims and challenging the behaviour of perpetrators. You can also download a Word version.

A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission[1] shows that 20 per cent of women take time off work due to experiencing domestic abuse[2], two per cent lose employment as a direct result and 75 per cent of victims are targeted at work by their abuser[3]. The cost to the economy is considerable, with an estimated £14 billion arising from lost output due to time off work, and reduced productivity as a consequence of domestic abuse[4]

The cost to victims is immense. Government data shows that around one in three women and one in seven men experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime[5]. Employers and unions in the education sector can play a vital role in recognising, identifying and implementing effective measures to prevent - and protect workers from - domestic abuse.

[……School/College] acknowledges that domestic abuse is a significant problem, which has a devastating impact on victims and their families. The school/college recognises that for some staff, the workplace is a safe haven and the only place that offers routes to safety. The school/college will take all reasonable steps possible to combat the reality and impact of domestic abuse on staff who are being abused and to challenge the behaviour of workers who are perpetrators of domestic abuse. […...School/College] does not condone domestic abuse under any circumstances and requires all staff to behave appropriately and professionally at all times.

Legal Context

[…...School/College] undertakes to comply with its legal obligations as set out below:

All employers have a duty of care under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and associated health and safety legislation, to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers are required to undertake general risk assessments which should include specific risks related to domestic abuse.

Employers in the education sector also have duties under the Equality Act 2010 to consider the need to eliminate unlawful harassment and victimisation, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. Applying an effective whole school or college approach to tackling sexual harassment and violence in the workplace will go some way to meeting this duty.

Status and scope

This policy applies to all members of staff across all sites including agency and contract staff. It sets out procedures for staff and managers to follow when responding in the workplace to issues related to domestic abuse. It should be applied in the context of all agreed workplace policies covering dignity at work, health, safety and welfare, harassment and bullying, violence, flexible working, absence management, leave of absence, safeguarding and child protection.

This policy has been agreed through consultation and negotiation with staff via the recognised trade unions.

Aims

[……School/College] aims to create a safer working environment for all staff by raising awareness of domestic violence and abuse, arranging training, providing guidance to managers, supporting domestic abuse survivors, signposting staff to appropriate specialist support and working to eliminate risks related to domestic abuse in the workplace.

Roles and responsibilities

[……School/College] will publicise this policy to all staff through induction, staff communications, posters and meetings.

[……School/College] encourages all staff to read this policy and to follow the steps within it.

[Head teacher or designated safeguarding lead[6]] is the nominated point of contact for domestic abuse issues. They have received in-depth domestic abuse training and they are the key point of contact for line managers, staff and external agencies. They will be supported by human resources.

[……School/College] will ensure that all staff with management responsibilities attend appropriate training on identifying domestic abuse and supporting staff who are experiencing domestic abuse. The school/college will arrange domestic abuse awareness training for all staff and will allow recognised trade union representatives time off to attend domestic abuse training.

[……School/College recognises that domestic abuse affects women disproportionately and will ensure that at least one woman colleague is trained and nominated as a point of contact on domestic abuse issues.

Definition of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is defined by the Government 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.

The impact of domestic abuse can range from loss of self-esteem to loss of life.

Domestic abuse happens across all social backgrounds and cultures and causes lifelong harm to victims and their children. It disproportionately affects women and there is evidence that domestic violence gets worse during pregnancy[7] and that disabled women are twice as likely to experience domestic violence than non-disabled women.[8] Domestic abuse and other forms of violence against women are most commonly perpetrated by men. Anyone can be subjected to domestic abuse; controlling and abusive behaviour can also occur in same sex relationships and can be perpetrated by women against men. It follows that staff may need different support and resources, depending on their protected characteristics – sex, age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity status.[9] 

Domestic abuse is not limited to physical violence; it includes a range of damaging behaviour which include but are not limited to:

  • Verbal abuse
    Belittling, insulting, or demeaning someone with words – alone or in front of others.
  • Physical violence
    Any type of violence against someone such as pushing, hitting, punching, kicking, choking or using weapons.
  • Controlling behaviour
    Attempting to restrict who someone sees or talks to. Preventing them socialising with friends or family.
  • 'Gaslighting'
    Persistently undermining or manipulating someone, so they doubt their own sanity or become convinced that they are the problem.
  • Financial abuse
    Taking control of someone's finances to deny them money and limit their independence.
  • Sexual abuse
    Rape (pressuring or forcing someone to have sex when they don't want to), touching or groping, making someone watch pornography.
  • Online and digital abuse
    Insulting or threatening someone via social media, messaging, or email; sharing or threatening to share intimate photos (image-based abuse).
  • Stalking
    A pattern of persistent and unwanted attention that makes someone feel pestered, scared, anxious or harassed. For example, making unwanted communication, using threats, or repeatedly following a person or spying on them.
  • Coercive control
    An act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim.
  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) 
    All procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. 
  • Forced Marriage 
    When a marriage in which one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Duress can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure.
  • So called ‘honour’ crimes or honour-based abuse 
    So-called honour crimes or honour-based abuse is when a crime or incident has been committed ostensibly to protect or defend the honour of the family and/or community. This can involve emotional abuse, physical abuse, family disownment and in some cases, murder. In most cases there are multiple perpetrators from the immediate family, sometimes the extended family and occasionally the community at large.

Identifying domestic abuse

It might not be immediately obvious that a colleague is experiencing domestic abuse

Possible signs of domestic abuse include:

  • 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).

This list of possible signs is not exhaustive, the signs could manifest themselves over time and the behaviours may be indicative of other concerns.

If domestic abuse is suspected or disclosed, staff should follow the steps in the section on responding to suspected or disclosed domestic abuse.

Reducing the impact of domestic abuse

The school/college will take all reasonable steps possible to understand the impact of domestic abuse on staff who are being abused and reduce the impact.

To support staff who are experiencing domestic abuse, [……School/College] will:

  • raise awareness of the prevalence and impact of domestic abuse
  • offer practical support to victims/survivors
  • investigate all allegations, disclosures or convictions of domestic abuse offences with the objective of reducing risk and supporting change
  • signpost victims/survivors and perpetrators to appropriate counselling and support.

Responding to suspected or disclosed domestic abuse

Domestic abuse is unlikely to be disclosed easily by victims or perpetrators. To address the workplace effects of domestic abuse, […...School/College] will follow what is known as the ‘Four R’s’ approach:

  • Recognise the problem.
  • Respond appropriately.
  • Refer on to appropriate help.
  • Record the details.

Recognise the problem

[School/College] encourages all staff to be aware of the signs of domestic abuse and the impact that domestic abuse can have on those experiencing it.

All staff with line management responsibility should look out for signs of domestic abuse. If there are signs of domestic abuse, line managers will consider asking sensitive, non-threatening questions in a one-to-one meeting in a private setting.

If the head teacher or another member of staff needs further advice or assistance before speaking to a member of staff about domestic abuse, it can be sought from human resources[10] and from their trade union.[11]

Very often a member of staff will choose not to disclose information about domestic abuse during a first discussion as they may feel ashamed and worried about the consequences of doing so. Staff will be given details of a nominated person(s) to contact, including at least one female member of staff, should they wish to discuss any matters that might be affecting them in the future. They will be advised that they may bring a trade union representative or friend to any future meetings if that helps them to discuss what is happening.

Respond and refer appropriately

If a colleague does disclose that they are experiencing domestic abuse, the appropriate response from any member of staff is:

  • Listen, believe and take the disclosure seriously.
  • Don’t be judgmental about the victim’s response to the perpetrator’s behaviour.
  • Respect and accept the victim’s thoughts and ideas on the way forward outside work; the victim will know best how the perpetrator may react.
  • Alert them to workplace support available under the domestic abuse policy (see section on practical support).
  • Reassure them that the discussion will remain confidential unless an exception applies such as an immediate risk to life (see section on confidentiality).
  • Don’t give advice beyond your expertise eg don’t pressurise the victim to leave the perpetrator.
  • Provide information about specialist domestic abuse organisations that can offer expert support (see section on specialist domestic abuse support).

If a disclosure is made to a line manager, they will take the following additional steps, in liaison with the victim/survivor and the head teacher:

  • Consider requesting a workplace risk assessment to ensure that the potential risk to the employee and work colleagues is minimised.
  • Offer practical support within the organisation (see section on practical support).
  • Suspend any capability or disciplinary procedures arising from absence or performance issues which are related to domestic abuse.
  • Adjust working patterns as appropriate to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the victim/survivor.
  • Offer to work with domestic abuse specialists to develop an appropriate and joined up workplace safety plan (see section on specialist domestic abuse support).
  • Provide ongoing support to ensure the victim/survivor’s safety and wellbeing is monitored.
  • Help the victim/survivor build up their self-confidence.

It is recognised that this is a difficult area to discuss; all staff who are affected by a domestic abuse disclosure can seek support from the nominated point of contact for domestic abuse issues or human resources. Counselling is available from the Education Support Partnership.

Record the details

Line managers will make a written record of all discussions and actions agreed. All records will be stored securely and labelled and treated as ‘strictly confidential’ and the information will be treated sensitively in line with the section on confidentiality.

Confidentiality and the right to privacy

All staff who disclose that they have experienced or are experiencing domestic abuse can be assured that the information they provide will be handled sensitively and used only for its proper purpose. Information on domestic abuse will remain confidential and ordinarily will not be shared with other colleagues without the survivor/victim’s permission.

There are, however, some circumstances in which the employer’s duty of care is the overriding factor, and confidentiality cannot be assured. This may occur when there are concerns regarding the victim/survivor’s children, vulnerable adults or where the organisation is required to share the information to protect the safety of their staff. Where there is a risk to life the police will be called. In these circumstances, the victim/survivor will be informed as to the reasons why confidentiality cannot be maintained; the information will be shared on a need to know basis only; and care will be taken to ensure that the sharing of information does not put the victim/survivor at greater risk.

Under data protection legislation, individuals have the right to see their own personal data held by their employer. Rights to see information relating to other people is restricted. [School/college] will be alert to domestic abuse victims/survivors being coerced into consenting to the release of their personal information to third parties (including to alleged abusers) and will ensure that information is not released in these circumstances.

Practical Support for victims/survivors

At [……School/College] the head teacher[12] will lead on supporting victims/survivors of domestic abuse.

It is essential that staff feel able to disclose that they are experiencing domestic abuse and they are encouraged to discuss this with their head teacher. If they feel unable to do so, support is available from human resources[13] and their trade union and/or or they can self-refer to specialist support services (see section on specialist domestic abuse support).

All practical domestic abuse support will be victim/survivor-led; the right of a member of staff to make their own decisions about the course of action in relation to the perpetrator at every stage will be respected. It is recognised that they may need some time to decide what they want to do and that they may try different options during the process.

The role of the head teacher is not to deal with the abuse itself (unless the abuse is taking place on site) but to make it clear that staff will be supported and to set out what help is available.

The head teacher will work with staff experiencing domestic abuse, and specialist services, to carry out a safety plan and will offer a broad range of practical support, including:

  • establishing steps to allow a victim/survivor to continue to attend the workplace, as work is often a place of safety
  • offering confidential, approachable and non-judgmental meetings with a designated support person
  • ensuring arrangements are in place for safe travel to and from work
  • providing a secure entry system and, if appropriate, car-parking space
  • alerting reception (and any security staff) to the issue and providing them with a photograph of the perpetrator
  • reviewing the security of the victim/survivor’s personal information, including email, phone, bank details and home address (which may be new or temporary), and remind office staff not to disclose this information to third parties
  • agreeing a response if the perpetrator contacts or visits the workplace
  • screening telephone calls to the victim/survivor and, if necessary, blocking calls from the perpetrator
  • blocking emails from the perpetrator, if necessary
  • giving the victim/survivor the option of changing their work location,[14] working hours or work patterns on a temporary or permanent basis
  • offering changes to specific duties; for example to avoid potential contact with the perpetrator, or to curriculum delivery to ensure that the victim/survivor is not distressed by the subject matter of a lesson
  • offering paid time off to move home or for relevant appointments, for example with support agencies, solicitors, to rearrange housing or childcare, or for court appointments
  • offering further special leave or compassionate leave for counselling, recovery or respite from the perpetrator
  • recording any time off related to the domestic abuse separately and confidentially
  • advising other colleagues on a need-to-know basis (please see section on confidentiality)
  • ensuring that the victim/survivor is not subjected to capability or disciplinary procedures before the safety plan and support systems have been discussed and implemented
  • adjusting performance targets and reviewing the victim/survivor’s workload
  • if the victim/survivor requires financial support, supporting them in a request for an advance of pay, an interest free loan or bursary
  • bolstering the victim/survivor by referring to a support platform such as the Freedom Programme or other reputable organisations.

If the abuse is taking place on the school/college site, the head teacher will take all reasonable steps to protect staff and students. This will include: calling 999 if the perpetrator is on site; informing other appropriate agencies where necessary; warning staff; and agreeing a safety action plan with all staff in the event that the perpetrator contacts the school/college,  contacts staff outside work or gains access to the site.

Perpetrators of domestic abuse in the workplace

Staff should be aware that perpetrating domestic abuse is a serious breach of professional conduct and can lead to a criminal conviction.

[……School/College] recognises that it has a role in supporting perpetrators to stop violent and abusive behaviour of all kinds.

[……School/College] will treat any allegation, disclosure or conviction of a domestic abuse related offence on a case-by-case basis with the aim of reducing risk and supporting change.

If a member of staff discloses or is reported to be perpetrating domestic abuse, the head teacher will follow usual child safeguarding protocols; they will inform human resources, the safeguarding lead and the LADO. The staff disciplinary procedure will be invoked, suspension will be considered and the matter will be investigated. If there is evidence that a member of staff has perpetrated domestic abuse, this will be treated as serious misconduct. The decision as to whether to refer the matter to the police will be made by the head teacher after consultation with the LADO and the police at a strategy meeting.

Consideration will need to be given to ensuring that any victims/survivors are protected by the appropriate agency; and that the agencies are informed of the disciplinary steps taken, as this can trigger an escalation in abuse.

[……School/College] will provide information about the services and support available and will encourage the perpetrator to seek support and help from an appropriate source.

[……School/College] will ensure that:

  • allegations are dealt with fairly and in a way that provides support for the person who is the subject of the allegation or disclosure
  • the accused member of staff is treated fairly and honestly, helped to understand the concerns expressed and processes involved, kept informed of the progress and outcome of any investigation and advised of the implications for any disciplinary process
  • guidance and support is made available for all staff.

Where both the victim and perpetrator are members of staff

In cases where both the victim and perpetrator of domestic abuse are members of staff, appropriate action will be taken in accordance with this policy.

In addition to considering potential disciplinary action against the perpetrator, and the health, safety and welfare of all staff, [……School/College] will take appropriate action to avert contact between the victim and perpetrator in the workplace. In most cases, this will involve the suspension or redeployment of the alleged perpetrator pending a disciplinary investigation.

Action will be taken to minimise the potential for the perpetrator to use their position or work resources to find out details of or the whereabouts of the victim - this is essential if the victim has moved home. Further advice can be sought from human resources.

Dealing with abuses of the policy

Staff who attempt to abuse this policy may face disciplinary action. [……School/College] takes false or misleading accusations very seriously which may result in further action being taken through the disciplinary procedure. This will not include allegations that were made in good faith.

Specialist support for victims/survivors or perpetrators of domestic abuse

The freephone 24 Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge.
Freephone: 0808 2000 247
Website: nationaldahelpline.org.uk or refuge.org.uk  

Women’s Aid 

You can find your local domestic abuse service on their website. 
Women’s Aid also offer:
Online Chat Service: chat.womensaid.org.uk/  
Email service: helpline@womensaid.org.uk  
Survivor’s Handbook: womensaid.org.uk/the-survivors-handbook/  
Survivor’s Forum: survivorsforum.womensaid.org.uk/ 
 

Wales - Live Fear Free (24 hour) Helpline  

In Wales, contact the 24-hour Live Fear Free Helpline.
Helpline: 0808 80 10 800 
Text support: 07860 077 333 
Website: welshwomensaid.org.uk/ or gov.wales/live-fear-free/domestic-abuse-wales

Email: info@livefearfreehelpline.wales

Scotland - Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline 

In Scotland, contact Scotland’s 24-hour Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage helpline.
Helpline: 0800 0271234  
Website: sdafmh.org.uk/  
Email: helpline@sdafmh.org.uk

Northern Ireland - Domestic & Sexual Violence Helpline

In Northern Ireland contact the 24 hour Domestic & Sexual Violence helpline.
Helpline: 0808 802 1414 
Text Support: 07797 805 839 
Website: womensaidni.org/24-hour-domestic-sexual-violence-helpline/  
Email: 24hrsupport@dvhelpline.org 

Specialist services for LGBT+ survivors

Galop runs the National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse specialist helpline.

Helpline: 0800 999 5428  
Website: galop.org.uk/domesticabuse/  
Email: help@galop.org.uk

Specialist services for Black survivors

Imkaan

Imkaan is a women’s organisation addressing violence against black and minority women and girls.
Phone: 020 7842 8525 
Website: imkaan.org.uk/ 
Email: info@imkaan.org.uk 

Karma Nirvana 

Supporting victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage.
Helpline: 0800 5999 247 
Website: karmanirvana.org.uk/ 
Email: support@karmanirvana.org.uk

Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS)

Advocacy, information and support for migrant women provided in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
Helpline: 0771 928 1714 
Email: referrals@lawrs.org.uk 
Website:lawrs.org.uk/violencia-domestica-durante-el-aislamiento

Southall Black Sisters

Southall Black Sisters offer specialist support, advocacy and information to Asian and Afro-Caribbean women suffering abuse.
Phone: 0208 571 9595 / 020 8571 0800  
Website: southallblacksisters.org.uk 
Email: info@southallblacksisters.co.uk 

Specialist services for Disabled survivors

These services are run by deaf and/or disabled people.

Stay Safe East

Stay Safe East provides specialist and holistic advocacy and support services to disabled victims and survivors of abuse.
Phone: 0208 519 7241  
Website:staysafe-east.org.uk 
SMS/Text: 0758 7134 122 
Email: enquiries@staysafe-east.org.uk

SignHealth

SignHealth provides domestic abuse service support for deaf people in British Sign Language (BSL).
Telephone: 020 3947 2601 
WhatsApp or Facetime: 07970 350366

Website: signhealth.org.uk 
Email: da@signhealth.org.uk 

Specialist services for male survivors

Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men

This helpline is for men experiencing domestic violence.
Helpline:  0808 801 0327 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
Email: info@mensadviceline.org.uk

Other services

Hestia

Hestia has a free mobile app - Bright Sky  which provides support and information to anyone who may be in an abusive relationship or to those concerned about someone they know.
Phone: 020 7378 3100 
Website: hestia.org
Email: info@hestia.org
Mobile App: brightsky@hestia.org 

Chayn

Chayn provides online help and resources in a number of languages about identifying manipulative situations, and how friends can support those being abused.

Respect helpline

Respect is a helpline that has been set up for anyone worried about their own behaviour. If you are worried about hurting the ones you love while staying at home, call the Respect Phoneline for support.
Helpline: 0808 8024040 
Website: respectphoneline.org.uk/ 
Email: info@respectphoneline.org.uk

Domestic Abuse Training Providers

Women’s Aid can offer in-house training to organisations to raise their awareness of domestic abuse and support the implementation of policies and procedures.

The Freedom Programme offers an online course and regional support groups for victims and survivors of abuse.

AVA (Against Violence & Abuse) run training on gender-based violence and abuse.

Galop run training for professionals, informed directly by the needs of LGBT+ communities on a range of areas, including domestic abuse.

Imkaan offer training programmes to education institutions who are seeking to improve awareness of violence against women and girls within a BME context.

Respect offer one-to-one work with perpetrators of domestic abuse. They also offer training for frontline workers on perpetrators of domestic abuse, male victims and young people’s violence in close relationships. Respect also run accreditation for other perpetrator programmes to ensure they are effective in reducing harm and do not risk increasing risk for victims.


[2] Walby S. & Allen J. (2004) Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey. Home Office Research Study 276 nomsintranet.org.uk/roh/official-documents/HomeOfficeResearchStudy276.pdf

[3] Via the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, 2009: Employers Role in Tackling Domestic Violence

[5] Office for National Statistics (2019) Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2019. Table 1b: Prevalence of domestic abuse among adults aged 16 to 59, by type, year ending March 2019, CSEW 

[6] Schools and colleges will need to nominate a senior member of staff to lead in this role; they should have received domestic abuse awareness training and have authority to approve support for staff. Additional support will be available from human resources.

[7]It is estimated that four to nine in every 100 pregnant women are abused during their pregnancy or soon after the birth. Angela Taft (2002)

[8] Women’s Aid The Survivor’s Handbook: womensaid.org.uk/the-survivors-handbook/

[9] NEU’s domestic abuse guidance document details what different support could look like.

[10] Different school and college settings will have access to a range of human resources, support and advice.

[11] Guidance for members, workplace reps and school and college leaders can be found on the NEU website.

[12] Some schools or colleges might identify another senior member of staff to lead in this role; they should have access to domestic abuse awareness training and have authority to approve support for staff.

[13] Different school and college settings will have access to a range of human resources, support and advice.

[14] A change in location might be feasible if the school/college runs across multiple sites or is part of a wider group of school/college premises.