Survey finds that a third of workers in Kilkenny have experienced domestic abuse

Survey finds that a third of workers in Kilkenny have experienced domestic abuse

A third of respondents in a recent survey have experienced domestic abuse in their personal life accord to Amber Women's Refuge, who are based in Kilkenny.

The survey was undertaken by Amber of women and men who work outside the home in Kilkenny and Carlow.

'The Impact of Domestic Abuse on the Workplace’ survey, which 200 women and men responded to, is the first of its kind to attempt to quantify the impact of domestic violence and abuse on employees and their employers in Kilkenny and Carlow. 

Of the respondents who answered that they have or are experiencing domestic abuse, over 66% of them said the abuse negatively impacted their work performance with them feeling exhausted, unwell or distracted as a result of an abusive relationship in their personal life.  3.5% said their work performance was impaired by a physical injury resulting from the abuse. 

35% said the abuse periodically affected their ability to work productively, with 21% saying that the abuse negatively affected their work performance ‘most of the time’.  38% experienced significant stress while at work, while 24% had to deal with frequent phone calls, messages or emails from their abuser while at work.  Almost 21% experienced physical threats from their abuser during their workday.   

Almost 58% of respondents who have or are experiencing domestic abuse have been absent or late for work as a result.  10% had their car keys, money for transport to work or their work clothes/uniform hidden or withheld from them and 44% needed to take planned or unplanned time off work to deal with issues related to domestic abuse. 

54% of respondents cited an ex-partner as their abuser.  For a quarter of respondents, a ‘family member’ was the main perpetrator. 

82% of respondents to Amber’s survey were women, with the majority aged between 35-54 years.  The highest number of respondents work in large companies with 500+ staff and under 20 staff respectively, across Kilkenny and Carlow. 

These findings are in keeping with research undertaken by the Centre for Global Women’s Studies at NUI Galway earlier this year.  This research quantified the impact of domestic violence on productivity loss, finding that Irish women experiencing domestic violence miss, on average, 15 days of productive work each year.  Research by economists in the US, UK and other European countries has also established that women who experience domestic violence are at increased risk of absenteeism, more irregular work history and reduced performance at work, consequently costing businesses time and money.  These women also experienced limited occupation mobility and were at risk of dropping out of the labour force and ultimately lower earnings.

“While the personal and societal effects of domestic abuse have been documented, less recognised is the impact of the serious crime of domestic abuse on the victim’s work and workplace.  We were aware from our work on the ground in Kilkenny and Carlow that domestic abuse has a significant impact, not only for the victims in their personal lives, but that the abuse often invades their working lives.  Many victims and their colleagues frequently face harassment, disruptions to their working day and job sabotage by an abusive partner or family member.  Domestic abuse can also negatively impact staff turnover levels, workplace culture and morale.  1 in 4 Irish women and 1 in 7 Irish men will experience abuse from an intimate partner in their lifetime.  They are very often someone who works with us or for us.” said Lisa Morris, Manager, Amber Women’s Refuge. 

Almost 70% of respondents who said they have or are experiencing domestic abuse did not disclose it to their employer/manager or co-workers.  60% felt too ’embarrassed or ashamed’ to, while 27% ‘did not want to get their work colleagues involved’.  5% said they feared they would lose their job or be discriminated against if they disclosed the abuse.   

65% of those who made a disclosure about their abuse said their employer/manager were ‘helpful and empathetic’ to their situation.  Encouragingly, 23% of respondents said their employer/manager suggested specialists the respondent could speak to, while 29% actively ‘discussed possible solutions with them’.  12% of respondents said their employers/managers ‘were not helpful’ when they made their disclosure.

The impact of domestic abuse was also felt by their co-workers.  Over half of respondents, who hadn’t personally experienced domestic abuse, said they witnessed the effects of a colleague’s abuse while at work in Kilkenny or Carlow.  Over 18% said the abuse caused conflict or tension at work, causing them to ‘feel stress and concern’ for their colleague.  Only 3% of those who had witnessed a colleague dealing with domestic abuse said it did not affect them personally while at work.  

83% of all respondents said that a policy on domestic abuse would benefit their workplace.  66% stated that a designated advisor or counsellor would be the most suitable person in the workplace to make a disclosure of domestic abuse to.      

Globally there is a growing movement across various jurisdictions that the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion agenda must also address the consequences of domestic violence, in addition to workplace harassment and bullying. The International Labour Organisation Convention on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work, to which Ireland is a signatory, calls for governments and employers to address the risks and impacts of domestic violence in workplace policies. 

“Our survey findings highlight how domestic abuse is not just a devastating personal issue for those experiencing it, it’s a societal issue that pervades all aspects of our lives, from the person we buy our morning coffee from, to the colleague we sit beside in work or see on the screen on a Zoom call.  While the response from local employer/managers was, in the main, positive for the minority of respondents who chose to disclose their abuse, gaps in knowledge, support and training on the issue of domestic abuse remain in local workplaces.” said Naoimh Murphy, Communications & Training Officer, Amber Women’s Refuge.

“Amber is calling on employers and people managers in Kilkenny and Carlow to first acknowledge and then address the impacts of domestic abuse being experienced by some of their employees while at work.  Engage in conversations, develop a Policy for Domestic Abuse for your workplace and avail of specialist training for your people managers.  With the average fulltime Irish worker spending over a third of their lives at work, employers have a duty of care, as well as a financial and HR imperative, to make their workplaces a safe and supportive place for all their employees.” concluded Naoimh Murphy.

Amber Women’s Refuge offers specialist guidance and support to employers on developing a workplace policy on Domestic Abuse, how to spot the signs, what to do if a member of staff makes a disclosure and how to appropriately respond and refer.  Contact communications@ for more details.  

Amber Women’s Refuge Helpline can be reached on 0818 42 42 44 and the Men’s Aid Helpline is on 01 554 3811.


‘The Impact of Domestic Abuse on the Workplace’ survey was authored by Jennifer Walsh, as part of her post graduate studies at University College Cork, in partnership with Amber Women’s Refuge.  

Amber Women’s Refuge provides emergency refuge accommodation, support and information services and a 24hr Helpline to women and children in Kilkenny and Carlow who are victims of domestic violence and abuse.  Amber also provides safe, inclusive, community-based support services in Kilkenny city and county and throughout county Carlow to women and children living with or fleeing the serious crime of domestic abuse.  Amber Women’s Refuge works to achieve equality and the right to live a life free from violence and abuse for all in our community.

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