Domestic abuse can destroy lives, leaving physical and emotional scars. Those experiencing domestic abuse can find themselves isolated from friends and family and lose their independence. It can take many forms, not just physical abuse; but also, financial, emotional and psychological.
Most survivors are women with a male perpetrator, but it’s important to remember that men can also be subject to abuse, and domestic abuse can happen in same-sex relationships. We should therefore not make assumptions about who the abuser may be or what a survivor may be experiencing.
The nationwide lockdown that began in March led to a dramatic major increase in domestic abuse incidents, as survivors were forced to stay indoors with their abusers.
Those in an emotionally abusive, coercive or controlling relationship suffered the agony of being locked in a house with the person they feared the most; something hard for many of us to imagine.
It is thought that, globally, domestic abuse cases have escalated by 20 per cent in the past six months or so. In the UK, more than a third of specialist domestic abuse services have reported an increase in requests for support over lockdown.
While domestic abuse may occur in the home, its impact stretches into every aspect of survivors’ lives – including their working life. As many as one in five survivors may need to take time off work because of abuse.
Having a job and spending time away from perpetrators can offer a degree of independence and financial self-sufficiency, which is so important for those suffering abuse. Their workplace provides them with a network outside of the home that they can draw on for support and can be one of the few places many survivors feel safe to speak out about what they are going through.
Addressing something like domestic abuse can seem daunting. Just reaching out to people who are having difficulties can feel unsettling, with the fear of doing the wrong thing. The CIPD and Equality and Human Rights Commission have produced excellent guidance for employers to draw upon in the first instance.
Key recommendations for employers
The CIPD suggest a framework of employer support made up of four steps:
- Recognise the problem
- Respond appropriately to disclosure
- Provide support
- Refer to the appropriate help
The key recommendations are as follows:
- Develop a domestic abuse policy and create an effective framework around domestic abuse support.
- Where an organisation has a recognised trade union, policies should be reviewed and agreed with union representatives.
- Employers have a duty of care for the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff and are in a strong position to create a safe and supportive workplace environment. Think about the safety/security measures that may be required.
- Create open work cultures that help to break the silence around this important issue and ensure people know that the organisation will support people experiencing domestic abuse to seek help.
- Offer flexibility to enable people to attend counselling, legal and finance appointments, get support from professional organisations and make arrangements, for example, concerning childcare and housing.
- Outline people’s different roles and responsibilities when it comes to supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse. For example, HR should take central responsibility for developing a policy and procedures on domestic abuse and facilitating awareness-raising training. Line managers should receive appropriate training on how to effectively support someone experiencing domestic abuse. They need to be clear on how to encourage and appropriately respond to the disclosure of abuse and signpost people to professional support. They also have an obligation to prioritise confidentiality wherever possible. Supportive and empathetic employees and co-workers can assist an affected colleague in gaining confidence to seek support.
- Make it clear that abusive behaviour is the responsibility of the perpetrator and misconduct inside and outside of work is viewed seriously – and can lead to disciplinary action.
- Signpost to supportive services, charities and organisations and outline the types of support that someone might need, such as: legal support, housing support, support with childcare, support in dealing with financial abuse, specialist counselling.
PSHR will be supporting the charity Lighthouse Women’s Aid this year. Our team will be raising money by taking part in their first Virtual Santa Challenge from 1st to 24th December. We plan to help virtual Santa fly from the North Pole to Suffolk in time for Christmas by taking up some of the 2600 miles.
If anyone else is interested in taking part, follow this link: https://www.ticketgun.com/events/santa-virtual-challenge-north-pole-to-suffolk
Lighthouse For Advice: 01473 228 270
In Immediate Danger Call: 999