Pandemic raised the specter of domestic abuse – how can employers support victims?


A new advice line for businesses supporting employees experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse has been launched by domestic abuse charity Hestia.1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime with 10 per cent of victims reporting abuse at work.[1]

Funded by the Home Office, the Everyone’s Business Advice Line will be a point of contact for businesses, supporting them on how to approach disclosures of domestic abuse by their employees, particularly in light of Covid-19. They will also receive advice so that they can signpost staff to specialist domestic abuse services.

Hestia says lockdown has shown that home is not always safe for everyone, and with more people working remotely due to Covid-19, cases of domestic abuse are rising. The charity saw a 47 per cent increase in victims reaching out for information and support on its free domestic abuse app, Bright Sky.

While over 2.4 million people are affected by domestic abuse every year,[i] it can be difficult for employers to recognise the signs and support those experiencing domestic abuse in their organisation. Hestia launched the Everyone’s Business programme to increase awareness and support in the workplace and have worked with over 70 organisations from the Metropolitan Police to Balfour Beatty.

Businesses play a significant role in supporting those who experience domestic abuse. Yet whilst 86 per cent employers agree they have a duty of care to support employees experiencing domestic abuse[2] fewer than one in three victims disclose the abuse at work, citing ‘shame’ and ‘privacy’.[3]

It’s also expensive, costing employers upwards of £14 billion every year, when measuring based on reduced employee productivity and lost output due to time off work.[4]

Minister for Safeguarding, Victoria Atkins said: “Domestic abuse affects people in all parts of the economy, and employers can play a crucial role in helping staff who are victims of this appalling crime.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into focus the need for victims to have as many sources of support as possible.

We are proud to be funding Hestia to provide a new employers’ domestic abuse advice line which will help employers support their colleagues at this critical time.”

Lyndsey Dearlove, Head of Everyone’s Business Advice Line at Hestia said: “Lockdown has meant victims have been away from their place of work, in isolation with their abusers, often with no way to seek support. Now, as more people return to their place of work, employers have a unique role to play in breaking the silence around domestic abuse.

By providing a free advice line that offers guidance, employers will be able to help their employees and direct them to practical support. When employers take action and respond to domestic abuse, we know it saves lives. For too long domestic abuse has been nobody’s business and it is time it becomes everyone’s business.”

Elizabeth Filkin, Chair, Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse said:  “Members of the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse believe that domestic abuse is everyone’s business, and that employers have a critical role to play in supporting those affected. Covid-19 and lockdown have made it more difficult for businesses to know how their staff are doing, and with a full return to the office being unlikely, it is not always easy to know what to do when domestic abuse is suspected, so having the Everyone’s Business Advice Line available to support and guide HR professionals and managers is a very valuable resource.”

Susan Bright, Global Managing Partner for Diversity & Inclusion and Responsible Business at Hogan Lovells, said: “Domestic abuse can have devastating consequences, and leave people faced with impossible life choices. Employers have an important role to play in supporting their employees, particularly this year and during the pandemic. We welcome the launch of the new advice line and hope that it will ease some of the pressure on those who are vulnerable.”

A survivor of domestic abuse said: “When my employer started working with Hestia, it was a turning point. This was my last resort to get help. I met with their Independent Domestic Violence Advocate and talked about my experiences. It was the first time I felt believed. It was like a weight had been lifted. Without this service, I don’t know what would have happened. It is vital that businesses can provide this type of service. I want to tell anyone who is in the same situation I was in that talking to someone can make so much difference – speak to your employer.”

https://www.hestia.org/everyonesbusiness

[1] TUC Survey, 2014

[2] Westmarland, 2017

[3] TUC Survey, 2014

[4] Oliver et al., 2019

[i] Office for National Statistics, Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2019 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwalesoverview/november2019



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