Blog by Erika Oroszi
The Coronavirus has thrown not only domestic abuse into the spotlight but the role of employers in tackling it. As the UK entered a lockdown, overnight, victims lost their means of getting support, their chance to confide in other parents at the school gate, and the opportunity to reach out to friends, family and co-workers. Survivors need to be able to access support remotely and safely but few employers are aware of the signs of domestic abuse, and an even smaller number have a policy in place to support survivors, a new report has found.
In an open letter, the Business Minister has also called on employers to do more to help their workers.
Employers can get help with making their organisations more able to deal with supporting their employees around domestic abuse by working with the Employer’s Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) www.eida.org.uk/ and becoming a member. EIDA have also produced a quick response guide for employers following the Covid-19 pandemic. https://www.eida.org.uk/our-covid-19-response.
What can employers do?
Warning signs for domestic abuse include changes in a person’s behaviour, a sudden drop in work performance, mentions of controlling or coercive behaviour from partners, or physical signs such as bruising.
Here are a few positive steps that employers could take:
· Fostering an open, inclusive environment and signposting employees to free support services such as Bright Sky (which is a free to download app developed by Hestia in partnership with Vodafone, providing information and support around domestic abuse) www.hestia.org/brightsky
· Signposting employees to Ask for ANI, the codeword scheme, launched by the Home Office alongside Boots and independent pharmacies, which allows those at risk or suffering from abuse to discreetly signal that they need help accessing support. A trained pharmacy worker will then offer a private space where they can understand if the victim needs to speak to the police or would like help to access support services such as national or local domestic abuse helplines. www.gov.uk/government/publications/ask-for-ani-and-safe-spaces-schemes-training-toolkit
· Use Safe Spaces Online which was launched in partnership with Royal Mail Group. It is an online portal which can be installed on corporate websites for free, providing a discreet service that helps victims access to support and advice while leaving no internet history trace. uksaysnomore.org/safespaces/
· Work with Everyone’s Business which works with employers so that they can provide information, resources and practical guidance to employees who have experienced domestic abuse. https://www.hestia.org/pages/category/everyones-business
· Create an overall policy or guideline which includes a provision for domestic abuse discussion and internal training to HR, supervisors or managers. This should also include access to an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA ) https://www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk/ or a specific HR person addressing domestic abuse and offering special paid/unpaid leave for people experiencing domestic abuse.
· Let employees know that if they are facing domestic abuse you want to help them to get the support they need.
· Stay in regular contact with employees you know, or fear, maybe facing abuse and if you lose contact with them, take swift action to visit them. If you believe there is an immediate risk of harm to someone, or it is an emergency, always call 999.