A recent study by researchers at University College London (UCL) and SafeLives found that domestic abuse training for supervisors and employees, faith leaders and community members improved their awareness and understanding of domestic abuse, knowledge of how to respond, and motivation to do so, in both the short and longer term.

Most victim/survivors disclose their experience of abuse to someone in their familial or wider social networks, including colleagues. Disclosing to someone in the workplace is likely. A study from the US found that one in five employees disclosed domestic abuse whilst at work, most commonly telling colleagues rather than supervisors. Whilst most responses to such disclosures are deemed helpful, studies suggest this is not always the case. In the UK, research highlights the importance of workplace training for equipping and empowering managers to respond in positive and helpful ways.  

What are the impacts of domestic abuse training in the workplace?

The UCL/SafeLives study examined the impacts of domestic abuse training in the workplace alongside other community settings. The format of the workplace training varied and included one-off sessions, typically lasting 60 minutes, and online courses. Most workplaces had partnered with a domestic abuse organisation in developing and/ or delivering the training. Presentations or videos were the main method for delivering the content. The findings of the research included:

  • Training improved workplace managers’ awareness and knowledge of domestic abuse. The training sessions had supported “the development of skills in recognizing the signs of domestic violence and abuse” and so improved understanding of domestic abuse “in all of its forms”.
  • There were immediate improvements in employees’ feelings of preparedness to provide support. Managers and colleagues felt better equipped with knowledge of the relevant ‘policies and work tools’ and ‘how to refer to specialist services’.
  • Training played an important role in developing the confidence of employees to support victim-survivors in the workplace. Training gave employees the right and responsibility to act as they recognised that domestic abuse is ‘everyone’s business’.

What are the implications for employers?

The findings provide impetus for employers to continue to develop and support domestic abuse training in the workplace.

  • Ensure that managers and employees know how to respond to someone who disclosures experiences of domestic abuse.  
  • Build on existing practice, alongside research evidence, to develop training that maximises the likelihood of positive impacts. Courses should target awareness and understanding of domestic abuse (recognising the warning signs and dispelling myths), equip employees with the knowledge of how to respond (sharing relevant workplace policies, tools and wider resources) and empower them to provide helpful support (highlight the impacts of abuse and the potential for positive change).         
  • Monitor and evaluate training to build understanding about the impacts in the workplace and share learning across sectors.   

How was the research carried out?

The findings reported here are based on a rapid review of research, a scholarly process for identifying and synthesising evidence from multiple studies. The review was undertaken by researchers at UCL and SafeLives, guided by an Advisory group composed of experts, practitioners, and individuals with lived experience of abuse. The review included 11 studies that examined the effectiveness, and perceived effectiveness, of training for informal supporters. Four of these studies focused on workplace training. The studies were assessed and judged to be ‘good enough’ for synthesis but the evidence base is small and so presents a partial picture. We do not know about the impacts of training after one year, and we do not have concrete evidence on whether educational activities lead to behaviour change.

The academic article, published in Trauma, Violence & Abuse, is openly available here. A summary of how to support someone who is experiencing domestic abuse is published in The Conversation.

New study: Domestic abuse training equips and empowers managers and colleagues to respond to disclosures of abuse