Employers play a key role in breaking the taboo around domestic violence — Guest blog by Kati Hernesniemi

Domestic abuse is a serious problem that touches the whole of society. Internationally, victims of domestic abuse use 30%-100% more social and health services than the rest of the population. It is surprisingly often the real reason behind sick leave.

Domestic abuse comes to the workplace

Domestic abuse and partner violence affect the workplace more often than employers expect. Abuse has a huge impact on individuals, the immediate environment, and society. Domestic abuse and partner violence have a long-lasting effect on the victims. It may take significant time before the victims are able to leave the unsafe situation. Sometimes even years. If the employee does not feel safe at home, this evidently has some consequences for their employment sooner or later.

Breaking the taboo

Many times, the effects of domestic- and partner abuse at the workplace are heavily underestimated by employers. When thinking about domestic abuse, we do not typically think about the workplace.

Spotting domestic abuse

The fact that domestic abuse occurs in many forms, comes often as a surprise. For example, physical, financial, and coercive control, gaslighting, sexual abuse, blackmailing, and cyberbullying.

  • Wearing long sleeves when it’s very warm
  • Not wanting to talk about home or getting angry when someone asks if there might be problems at home
  • Disappointing work performance, often late and often sick
  • Anxious or emotional behavior
  • Keeping oneself away from colleagues
  • Receive a lot of messages from the (ex) partner, which clearly have a disruptive effect

How to address the issue

The next question that pops into the mind of an employer is how to address the problem. It is not expected that the employer would be an expert or fully equipped to handle the situation. The employer does not need to take a role that should be filled by local social workers, police, or legal professionals.

Measures to support victims of domestic violence as an employer:

  • Include domestic violence in policies to combat violence and aggression at work.
  • Train managers and supervisors to recognize and respond to domestic violence. Make sure they know who can provide the help internally (for example, the confidential adviser) or externally. Underline how important it is to respect privacy and confidentiality.
  • Provide employees with information so that they can recognize the problems in their home situation and know when to call for help.
  • Is there a confidential advisor, company social worker, or company doctor available within the organization? Make sure employees know where to go for help at work or make information available about help outside the organization.
  • Create a corporate culture where employees feel safe to ask for help, for themselves or for a colleague.
  • Be clear about the security procedures in the organization so that employees do not endanger their own safety and that of their colleagues, for example by giving an offender access to the building. Clarify where to report potential security issues and threats.
  • Where possible, take measures to protect a victim, for example by:
  • Screening incoming calls
  • Keep the name and contact details of employees confidential
  • Adjust the victim’s workplace and times.



AinoAid™ is designed as a first step for victims of domestic violence seeking help. Anonymous chat helps overcome the shame they feel, learn the level of seriousness of their situation for the most suitable action they can take. Test Aino at www.encourage.fi

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We Encourage is on a mission to empower women and girls under oppression. WE develops a customizable AI tool to help victims of domestic abuse.