Guide

Workplace policy on domestic and sexual violence and abuse

Why domestic and sexual violence and abuse is a workplace issue

Domestic and sexual violence and abuse can have an impact on affected employees. This impact can extend to other employees and the organisation.  Employers have a duty of care for the wellbeing of their staff. 

What is domestic violence and abuse?

Domestic violence and abuse is a pattern of behaviour involving the exercise of coercive control and the misuse of power by one person over another. It is usually frequent and persistent and is used to harm, ‘punish’ or frighten the victim.

The Northern Ireland government Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse Strategy (2016) defines domestic violence and abuse as: ‘threatening, controlling, coercive behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, virtual, physical, verbal, sexual, financial or emotional) inflicted on anyone (irrespective of age, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any form of disability) by a current or former intimate partner or family member.’

Whilst domestic violence happens most often in intimate partner relationships, domestic violence which often includes sexual violence can also happen between parents and children, brothers and sisters, family members and grandparents, and same-sex or teenage relationships.

What is sexual violence and abuse?

Sexual violence and abuse is an act that often aims to express power and dominance over the victim.  It can take many forms, involving both contact and non-contact activity. It can include taking advantage of an individual’s inability to give informed consent.

The NI government strategy defines sexual violence and abuse as: ‘any behaviour (physical, psychological, verbal, virtual/online) perceived to be of a sexual nature which is controlling, coercive, exploitative, harmful, or unwanted that is inflicted on anyone (irrespective of age, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any form of disability).’

Sexual violence and abuse can affect anyone. While the majority of victims are women, men can also be victims. It often happens in intimate relationships. It can also happen in other relationships such as parents, grandparents and siblings.

Sexual violence and abuse is very often perpetrated by someone whom the victim knows or trusts but it can also be perpetrated by a stranger.

Domestic and sexual violence and the workplace

Domestic and sexual violence can negatively affect those abused and workplace colleagues around them. For example:

  • a person can experience domestic and sexual abuse while they are at work through threatening phone calls and emails 
  • an employee may be vulnerable to abuse and violence when travelling to and from work
  • domestic violence can affect an employee’s performance, attendance, timekeeping, career prospects and job security
  • colleagues can experience threatening or intimidating behaviour from the perpetrator 

Developing a workplace policy on domestic and sexual violence and abuse can help to create a safe and supportive working environment. See what to include in a workplace policy on domestic and sexual violence and abuse.