Concern for a victim of domestic abuse


Q: I am concerned that a member of staff is a victim of domestic abuse; she frequently comes to work with bruises and last year she even had a fractured wrist. I have tried to approach the subject but she refuses to talk about it. Not only am I concerned for her safety but it is also affecting her work. What can we do?

Domestic Abuse

A: It is exemplary that as an employer you are reaching out to an employee who is going through a difficult time. Being able to recognise that this is possibly an issue of Domestic Violence is significant. One in four women and one in six men are affected by Domestic Violence during their adult lives and as such every work place is touched by this issue. As an employer the health, wellbeing and safety of your employees is critically important.

As the employer you must approach this issue discreetly and sensitively.

As you have already tried to discuss the subject it is important to keep the discussion going. It is appropriate for you to consider taking this employee for a coffee to have a chat, but you need to see whether the employee is more comfortable meeting at the offices or outside the office. A general chat, putting your employee at ease and having a general conversation about life will help to do this. You could raise the subject using yourself as an example eg: "I was so sorry when you fractured your wrist, I broke my arm once and was in agony for weeks" etc, and see if she takes the bait and opens up. You will need to recognise she will be traumatised about this and will be used to hiding the domestic violence from others. If she refuses to open up you could say that you are concerned about her safety and that you would like to have the opportunity to help and assist her if she would like you too. It is important not to be confrontational and you must not approach the issue from a capability perspective, initiating a meeting/discussion on the basis that you are concerned about her poor work performance. You can explain that she is a valued member of staff and that you would like to offer support to help her, so that she can succeed in her role with you. If she does open up to you, it is important you are then in a position to discuss strategies to help her cope at work, and sign post her to professional advice and assistance externally. You need to have information about local Domestic Violence initiatives to hand, and if she refuses to take the information you must explain where you are going to place the information for her to collect at any time if she changes her mind.

An effective long term approach to helping colleagues/staff who are sufferers of domestic violence would be to give immediate consideration to overall Domestic Violence and employee support policies at work. If your company is able to initiate a Domestic Violence support strategy, and it is clearly advertised to all members of staff, you are inviting her to approach you, or an outside agency direct and seek advice and support. If she does not approach you - you have training and resources to approach and support her more effectively.

The Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence (CAADV) offers a toolkit to employers to take positive actions at the workplace to end domestic violence. CAADV can give you best practice and policy templates, implementation guidelines and employee consultation templates. There is specialised HR and line manager training and personalised strategic consulting. CAADV would give your business access to the secure members website with research and further resource, and even assist with an intranet package with employee information in corporate identity. Posters in the staff toilets, available leaflets and information and simply knowing that the employers are supportive of employees with these problems at home can make all the difference for an employee and encourage that employee to be more forthcoming and seek out help and support. Implementing these steps are not costly but cost effective. It is critical to understand that employers are not the experts in this field. CAADV can train you and signpost you to frontline service providers who will address the specific needs of this member of staff, and others. For more information about CAADV visit

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