LRA ‘Breaks the Silence’ on Domestic Abuse

New guidance for employers on supporting staff affected by domestic violence & abuse.


With over 33,000 domestic abuse incidents reported to the PSNI last year*, and coercive, controlling, and psychological abuse now considered an offence**, the need to support victims in their workplace has been recognised by the Labour Relations Agency (LRA).  

‘Safe at home, Safe at work’ is new guidance specifically aimed at employers and trade unions on how to support employees affected by domestic violence and abuse.

Developed by the LRA and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the guide acknowledges how domestic violence and abuse often extends beyond the home and encourages employers to be aware of their obligations to their staff.

The issue has been further heightened since the pandemic as employees who work from home for all or part of their working week often lack a safe space away from their abuser.

Abuse can also extend into the workplace through harassment or threatening, controlling behaviour such as constant messaging, telephone calls and emails.

The ‘Safe at home, Safe at work’ guide highlights the need for employers to create a culture of openness and respect where staff feel comfortable speaking about taboo issues in confidence.  Employees should know that there is a clear policy in place for supporting those experiencing domestic violence and abuse, and an effective framework of support.

“Domestic violence and abuse can have widespread impact on every aspect of life – particularly the workplace,” said Helen Smyth, Advisory and Economic Development Manager of the LRA.

“The issue has been at large for years, and sadly incidents increased as a result of the pandemic, lockdown and related restrictions, which for many victims means there is simply no escape.

“Employers have a legal duty of care and are in a strong position to create that safe and supportive workplace environment, particularly as victims of domestic violence and abuse may be stalked, harassed, or attacked while at their workplace.

“This guide presents valuable sights into how domestic violence and abuse manifests in the workplace, and the importance of developing a workplace policy and procedure to address this pressing issue.  Such an approach has the best interests of the staff in mind. Of course, what is good for the employee is also good for the business.”

With the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Safe Leave) Act pending, employers in Northern Ireland will have a duty to offer at least 10 days paid leave for victims of domestic abuse.

Clare Moore, Equality Officer, Irish Congress of Trade Unions added: “In our ever-evolving society, separating home from working life can be challenging. ICTU research has shown that aside from the shattering impact on the victim, domestic abuse can undermine job security and destroy career prospects. Yet disturbingly, victims tend not to discuss the issue with their employers, citing ‘shame’ as the main reason.   

“By implementing a domestic violence and abuse policy, responding with sensitivity and through effective support, employers could change, and potentially help save lives.”

The Guide is available to read from The Labour Relations website.