Domestic abuse is complex. It is not always easy to spot and it can take many forms: Psychological, Physical, Sexual, Economic and Emotional.
Those who experience domestic abuse can be any age, gender, social class, race, sexuality, or religion. It’s a sad reality that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men suffer from domestic abuse in their lifetime, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Domestic abuse has been described as the shadow pandemic of COVID-19. Refuge saw a 700% increase in the number of visits to its Helpline website and a 65% increase in calls and contact between April and June 2020 compared to January to March 2020.
WHY DOES THIS IMPACT BUSINESS?
Surely something that is this personal and doesn't happen on company property means employers don't have to get involved? Wrong.
Employers have a duty of care towards their employees. The way you, as an employer, respond to:
seeing signs (unexplained injuries, decreased productivity, frequent lateness or absence or changes in behaviour)
being informed an employee is experiencing domestic abuse
being informed an employee is a domestic abuser
has a huge impact on the wellbeing of all involved – including the wider team.
The issues are such that the government has launched a review into support for victims of domestic abuse in the workplace, covering reporting abuse, financial assistance, and emotional support.
From a financial perspective, a Home Office report estimates domestic abuse costs £14billion in lost output relating to time taken off work and reduced productivity.
Creating a culture where your teams feel supported and valued, especially in a time of distress in their personal lives, is something that only contributes to your Employee Value Proposition.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR ORGANISATION DO?
As always, the approach should be tailored to your organisation, but one thing every organisation should do is prepare.
The first thing to do is ensure you, and your leaders are prepared for:
Looking for signs of abuse
What to do if they are informed someone is experiencing domestic abuse
What to do if they are informed someone is a domestic abuser
If someone is experiencing domestic abuse, there are lots of practical ways you can support them. Having someone to talk to who is non-judgemental makes a world of difference. Offer them contact with your Employee Assistance Provider (EAP). If your employee is working at one of your locations (as opposed to WFH) think about whether, with their permission, security teams are updated. Are their reasonable adjustments you can make if circumstances require it? Signpost them to support agencies.
THE OTHER SIDE
Quite often those talking about this subject, don’t mention those responsible for domestic abuse. It is important we acknowledge that whilst domestic abuse exists, the chances of you having someone who is experiencing domestic violence working for you, is the same as the chances of having someone responsible for it, working for you.
Are you prepared for someone in your team to disclose to you that they are an abuser? Quite commonly, the answer is no.
Ensure your team members know the organisational response is domestic abuse is not acceptable. In talking about it, you can encourage people to address their behaviour and seek support. This does not mean the company excuses this behaviour, but your response could ultimately save lives.
Some of the most rewarding work I have done, has been to help people who have been victims of domestic abuse, feel safe at their place of work and take positive action against their perpetrators.
I am therefore delighted that Mast People Support are a member of the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse. This is a dynamic community of large and small businesses who share learnings and resources to better support all those affected by domestic abuse. There is a wealth of information on their website.
If you wish to discuss what your organisation can being doing in more detail, please get in contact.