Employers urged to do more for employees experiencing domestic abuse
Health & Safety
In an open letter to employers, Paul Scully MP, Business Minister, urged employers to look at what more they can do to help people experiencing domestic abuse. The letter goes on to say that during the first UK lockdown in March 2020, calls for domestic abuse services increased, with Refuge reporting an 80% increase in calls to their domestic abuse hotline, with little to indicate this has changed throughout the continuing pandemic.
Scully further writes that mental health was once a taboo subject to talk about, but now most workplaces have well-established policies in place, and that workplaces should have similar for domestic abuse.
Should employers do more?
Back in 2018, the Government reported that one in four women and one in six men suffer from domestic abuse in their lifetime and that domestic abuse costs businesses £1.9 billion every year due to decreased productivity, time off work, lost wages, and sick pay.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission reported that 75% of women who experience domestic abuse are targeted at work, this included harassing phone calls and abusive partners arriving at work unannounced.
People spend a significant amount of their life in work and probably see and speak with colleagues more than they do some of their own family members and friends. This puts employers in a position to be able to potentially spot the signs of domestic abuse and offer a safe environment and access to support.
What could employers do?
Not all employers have equal access to resources to support those experiencing domestic abuse, particularly given the COVID pandemic. However, there are many resource friendly steps that can be taken so employees are both supported and signposted to professional help:
Create a domestic abuse policy which sets out your organisation’s stance on domestic abuse, the desire to help, provide a safe environment and to foster a culture of support. Your policy could also summarise arrangements that are most likely to already be in place which can help, for example:
– Employee Assistance Programmes
– Flexible working policies and adjustments
– Quiet spaces to make calls and arrangements
– Financial support and changing the way people are paid
– Secure workplaces which prevent unauthorised access
– Inclusive workplaces to acknowledge that anyone can experience domestic abuse.
Educate people, such as line managers and HR teams, in spotting common signs of domestic abuse, such as increased absence, changes in quality of work or to financial status, changes in personality or behaviour, or unexplained injuries.
Use free resources and tell employees about them (via email, posters or have it available on intranet pages). For example, the charity Hestia have created the Bright Sky App which offers guidance and help for individuals and people worried about others.
Many employers, where they legally can, are keeping COVID secure workplaces (or parts of workplaces) open to help employees work in a safe environment.
Business in the Community have produced a domestic abuse toolkit for employers which gives guidance on policy setting and resources available.