Employers Urged to Support Sufferers of Domestic Abuse this Christmas and New Year

Original Article: The Online Recruitment Resource | Dec. 19, 2017

While millions of workers across the UK are looking forward to the Christmas and New Year breaks, many suffering from domestic abuse are dreading the holiday season.

“The festive period always sees a marked rise in domestic abuse and for those suffering it the workplace is their only safe haven,” says Elizabeth Filkin CBE, who chairs the steering group of the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA), a network of employers working collectively to end domestic abuse.

“Employers can help support sufferers of domestic abuse by raising awareness and taking a proactive approach, but many lack information about of how to spot the signs and tackle the issue. We urge them not to turn a blind eye, but to join our members in sharing best practice and implementing policies to support sufferers.”

According to Ben Page, Chief Executive, Ipsos MORI, which has undertaken research with Durham University Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse, domestic violence is about six years behind mental health in terms of awareness as an issue among employers.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd last month told delegates at the first EIDA Conference that there will be someone in almost all organisations who has suffered or perpetrated domestic abuse and that it was a “moral duty of care” for employers.

Yet, the research, released at the event, found that, despite 86% of HR leads agreeing that employers have a duty of care to provide support to employees on the issue of domestic abuse, it appears to sit outside organisations’ more commonly developed set of ‘duty of care’ policies and guidelines. Only one in 20 medium and large UK

organisations have a specific policy or guideline to cover domestic abuse among their workforce.

Nearly three-quarters of HR leads in medium and large UK businesses surveyed (74%) agree companies can empower victims by giving them guidance on how to deal with domestic abuse and only 9% agree it is a personal matter and not appropriate for employees to raise with their employers.

Yet, in those companies which believe domestic abuse has had an impact in their organisation in the past 12 months, 58% say an employee’s productivity has declined, 56% that it has caused absenteeism and 46% that it had an impact on other colleagues’ productivity. A quarter of these organisations believe that domestic abuse/harassment has occurred at the workplace.

“Given the cost of domestic abuse to business at a time when the UK’s productivity is falling, it is more important than ever that employers do more to tackle the issue, which is why the EIDA came into existence,” says Filkin.

The Office for National Statistics figures on domestic violence1 estimate that almost two million UK adults have experienced some sort domestic abuse in the last year. Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, a member of the EIDA, told delegates at the conference that there were two homicides a week in the UK and that the service receives a call about domestic abuse every 30 seconds.

EIDA member Gentoo, a housing organisation in the North East of England, takes a proactive approach to domestic abuse in terms of its customers and employees. It has a dedicated domestic abuse business manager, provides a free legal clinic for staff (accessed by over 70 people since 2015), provides access to a domestic violence perpetrator programme for staff and its clients, allows paid leave to attend the perpetrator programme and the Freedom programme for victim-survivors, or to attend court or other appointments. It has 25 trained domestic and sexual violence champions.

All managers attended a mandatory ‘Justice for Jane’ session while an employee leaflet recognises that: “For some staff, the workplace is a safe haven and the only place that offers a route to safety.”

The Government is consulting on the scope and content of a new ‘landmark’ Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill, announced in the Queen’s Speech in June 2017 and which includes the establishment of a Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner. The Home Secretary has stated that tackling domestic abuse “requires a multipronged approach which includes legislation, a concerted police response and a culture shift across agencies and within our communities”. This provides the opportunity to emphasise the role of employers, and the importance of the employee-employer relationship, in helping to support those experiencing domestic abuse and engage in prevention activities.

Employers with any questions about the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse, or that would like to join the free network, should fill in the form at https://eida.org.uk/contact/. 

1 ONS Statistical bulletin Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2017