New research has found that Employer Assistance Programmes (EAPs) are most employers first point of action when dealing with domestic abuse but a more diversified approach is needed to handle this issue effectively

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According to the research, Domestic Violence and Abuse: Working together to transform responses in the workplace, 38% of HR leads in medium to large UK companies stated they had an EAP in place that includes support on domestic abuse.

One of the benefits of using EAP for domestic abuse cases stems from its anonymity. Employees are able to seek advice and help without the perceived embarrassment of raising it directly with a manager.

Latest figures on domestic violence from the Office for National Statistics estimates that almost two million UK adults have experienced some form of domestic abuse in the last year while only one in 20 medium to large UK organisation have a specific policy or guideline that addresses domestic abuse among their workforce.

Professor Nicole Westmarland, Director at the Durham University Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse, says: “Over the last few decades we’ve seen lots of improvements in responses to domestic abuse. But effective responses in the workplace are lacking. The time has now come for more workplaces to step up and join the movement to end domestic abuse.”

HR professionals in nearly three-quarters (74%) of organisations surveyed agreed that companies can empower victims by giving them guidance on how to deal with domestic abuse. However there is a misconception by senior management that domestic abuse isn’t an issue that affects their staff. Just 6% strongly agree and 20% tend to agree it is an issue that is on the agenda for HR policymakers.

Elizabeth Filkin CBE, who chairs the EIDA steering group, adds: “Despite 86% of HR leads agreeing that employers have a duty of care to provide support to employees on the issue of domestic abuse, it is clear from the research that domestic abuse appears to sit outside of organisations’ more commonly developed set of ‘duty of care’ policies and guidelines. But in those companies who believe domestic abuse has had an impact in their organisation in the past 12 months, 58% say an employee’s productivity has declined, 56% that it has caused absenteeism and 46% that it had an impact on other colleagues’ productivity. A quarter of these organisations believe that harassment/abuse has occurred at the workplace.

The research offers nine recommendations, with number eight stating that, given the central role of EAPs to some organisations, greater partnership working needs to take place. It is unclear what level of training EAP staff have, their level of partnership working with local and national domestic abuse organisations, or their ability to feed into local multi-agency risk assessment conferences (MARACs) given their national remit.

The conclusion of the research is that EAPs are important and vital in responding to domestic abuse by and against employees, but more information and support is needed to ensure a productive approach.

“Given the cost of domestic abuse to business at a time when the UK’s productivity is falling, it is more important than ever that employers do more to tackle the issue, which is why the EIDA came into existence.” Filkin concludes.