Domestic abuse: warning signs in the workplace

  Domestic abuse can be very well hidden. Through means of asserting power and control the perpetrator can leave the survivor feeling like they cannot get support, do not deserve…


Domestic abuse can be very well hidden. Through means of asserting power and control the perpetrator can leave the survivor feeling like they cannot get support, do not deserve help or that the repercussions for seeking services will make everything worse. In these circumstances, it’s through outsider’s intervention that real change can be made possible for the lives of the survivor and their children. Abuse is everybody’s responsibility.  


We have made a check list for employers of signs that could suggest something is happening within an employee’s personal life. This is not an exhaustive list but some of the key warning signs: 

  • Withdrawal – If you see an employee withdrawing from social activities, not engaging in conversations with colleagues or becoming dismissive about discussing weekend plans then check in regarding their wellbeing. 


  • Changes in behaviour – Everyone’s mood fluctuates but this is addressing more long term change of behavior. This can often be seen as more emotional such as easily upset, quick to get angry or continually stressed. 


  • Changes in appearance – This sign is easier to spot the more dramatic the change. This could be an employee who now wears very different clothes or changes their makeup style. This can be a very sudden change and it is normally covering up more or wearing less makeup. 


  • Increased lateness – If an employee is coming late to work on a regular basis and attending less organized than usual this may be an indication that they are having issues out of the workplace. 


  • Having multiple appointments – A sudden addition of appointments or out of work meetings with extreme importance can indicate that there have been big changes in an employee’s personal life. If this is not consistent with their previous patterns, then it can be worth checking in with the employee and see how work can support them. 


  • Less focused / more forgetful – If this behavior is unlike their previous demeanor and it is effecting their work then it could be a sign of abuse happening within the home. This could be through sleep deprivation, ongoing emotional abuse or gaslighting from their perpetrator.  


  • Unexplained injuries – Some abusive relationships escalate to physical violence. Most of the injuries sustained in abusive relationships happen around the arms, torso and back – these are areas of the body that can remain hidden. If you have an employee with injuries which they cannot explain or are trying to cover up, then this could be a warning sign of abuse within the home.


  • Increased fear or anxiety – This could be around many things such as being on a personal phone more often than usual, conversing with male colleagues, anxious about leaving work on time.


The key factor is the change in that employee’s behaviour. Some of these may be personality traits so it is more important to see the difference in past behaviour, appearance or work ethic. Opening the conversation can allow a survivor to know they can seek support and they are cared about. This can be the start of a new beginning for them and their children. 

For more information, please access this useful toolkit for employers designed by The Prince’s Responsible Business Network in association with Public Health England.

Get in contact with us if you want to learn more or if you want to explore training options at your company, and remember to subscribe to our newsletter!


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24/7 National Domestic Abuse Helpline:

0808 2000 247