Business Minister, Paul Scully, has encouraged employers to instate policies that would support workers who are victims of domestic abuse. 

The Government stated that employers have a “duty” to support staff that are victims of domestic abuse, especially during a time where remote working has become the norm.

Paul Scully, Business Minister, claimed that employers could be the vital “bridge between a worker and the support they need”.

In October of last year, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) called on HR teams to develop workplace policies that could help to aid victims of domestic abuse.

As part of this research, the CIPD ultimately found that under a quarter of employees (24 per cent) were aware of their employer having a policy on domestic abuse, meaning that many may be unaware of how to access help.

This also appears to have been worsened by lockdown conditions with the charity Refuge reporting a 65 per cent increase in demand to its helpline between April and June 2020. Their National Domestic Abuse Helpline website saw a 700 per cent increase in visits during this time period also.

As such, in an open letter, Mr. Scully outlined various steps employers could take to ensure victims were getting the support they needed:

  • Raising awareness of domestic abuse – Meaning staff can spot the signs of a colleague facing domestic abuse. They should also be able to support the victim – whether through listening, helping them access support or referring them to a specialist.
  • Not overcomplicating it – Offering practical steps such as promoting the Bright Sky App – a free service directory app for survivors of domestic abuse.
  • Being inclusive – Fostering a nurturing company culture where people can be themselves and are able to talk openly about problems.
  • Asking what you can offer – Asking what support you can practically offer and being receptive to the needs of the individual
  • Making your support clear to all – Putting your support package for survivors front and centre, whether in an employee handbook or on bulletin boards.
  • Involve experts – Senior leaders should not be afraid to bring in or speak with specialists who can handle sensitive situations
  • Use free support available – The Government have a range of free guidance for both employers and employees for example Business in the Community and Public Health England (toolkits) and joining the free Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse.

According to the CIPD’s previous statement, it is not the responsibility of the employer to solve the situation but there is a duty to support employees who are victims of this abuse.

Paul Scully echoed this, saying:

For too long, a lack of awareness of and stigma around speaking about domestic abuse has stopped workplaces from putting in place the kind of help that survivors so desperately need. It was once taboo to talk about mental health, but now most workplaces have well-established policies in place. We want to see the same happen for domestic abuse, but more quickly and more effectively.

Colleagues and managers can often be the only other people outside the home that survivors talk to each day and are therefore uniquely placed to help spot signs of abuse –such as an individual becoming more withdrawn than usual, sudden drops in performance or mentioning controlling behaviours in their partner.

*If you are interested in finding out more about how you can support your employees who may be dealing with this abuse, the CIPD’s recommendations can be found here and further advice can be seen here.