How to support survivors of domestic violence in the workplace

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and it’s a time for education, awareness and action around a matter that impacts more than 12 million women and men each year.  

The ripple effect of this social blight can have far-reaching effects in the lives of a survivor, affecting both personal and work lives: 44% of full-time employed adults in the U.S. report experiencing the effects of domestic violence in their workplace, and a striking 96% of employed domestic violence victims report experiencing work-related problems due to abuse. 

With these stats in mind, it's important that companies are prepared to act swiftly and compassionately when a member of their workforce reaches out for support. Below are a few steps your company can take to ensure you are prepared for when hardship or crisis strikes.  


Flexible work arrangements: Empowering survivors 

Flexible work arrangements are a cornerstone of support for employees dealing with domestic violence. These arrangements provide survivors with the flexibility needed to address their situations without compromising their employment. Whether it's adjusting work hours, allowing remote work, or offering temporary paid or unpaid leave, these accommodations empower survivors to prioritize their safety and well-being. 


Confidentiality: Fostering trust 

Maintaining confidentiality is paramount when an employee discloses a domestic violence situation. Employees should feel secure in approaching HR or management about their circumstances, knowing that their privacy will be respected and that they won't be penalized at work because of issues stemming from this personal crisis.  


Access to Counseling Professionals: A lifeline for survivors 

When it comes to supporting employees facing personal crises, including domestic violence, access to counseling professionals is paramount. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) and other therapeutic resources provide survivors with the emotional support, guidance, and referrals they need during challenging times. Survivors can find solace in knowing that help is available when they need it most. It’s important to advocate for mental wellbeing and create stigma free environment for those needing time and resources for pursuing counseling. If your organization already has an EAP or other counseling networks, be sure to regularly share information on how to access the program. Consider creating flyers to display in high-traffic areas and encouraging leadership to communicate information about the program frequently with their teams.  


Support networks: Peer empowerment 

Depending on the size of your company, support networks within the organization can be a powerful source of strength for survivors. Encouraging the creation of affinity groups or support networks where survivors can connect with colleagues who have faced similar challenges fosters empathy and understanding. Peer support can play a vital role in helping survivors navigate their journeys toward healing and recovery. 


Training for managers: Sensitivity and empathy 

Ensuring that managers and supervisors are well-trained in responding sensitively and effectively to employees facing domestic violence is essential. Training should cover not only how to address disclosures but also how to direct employees to available resources and support. 


Financial support: Alleviating burdens 

Financial stability is a significant concern for domestic violence survivors. Companies can provide financial assistance through a variety of means to help employees cover immediate expenses, such as medical bills, legal fees or relocation costs. This financial support demonstrates a commitment to employees' well-being and helps them get back on their feet. 

One simple and efficient way to grant dollars to employees in need is by establishing an emergency financial relief program. Also called employee relief funds or employee assistance funds, these programs offer a compliant and efficient way for employers to provide financial assistance directly to employees facing hardship, including domestic violence situations. These programs can be customized to align with the company's values and priorities, ensuring that assistance addresses the specific needs of employees.  

We hope this Domestic Violence Awareness Month inspires you to renew your commitment to providing compassionate support to those who need it most, which will allow you to create a workplace that prioritizes the well-being and safety of your greatest asset: your people. 

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