The economic cost of domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2016/7 was £66 billion, and 75% of those suffering from domestic abuse are targeted at their place of work.
Employers have a vital role to play in society’s response to domestic abuse; an issue that affects an estimated 1.9 million adults in the UK each year and which can have devastating effects on employees’ lives.
Preventing and tackling domestic abuse is an integral part of the duty of care and legal responsibility employers have in ensuring they provide a safe and effective work environment for their staff.
The Insurance Charities have supported employers in the insurance sector to tackle domestic abuse by sponsoring a Domestic Abuse toolkit, produced by Business in the Community and supported by Public Health England.
The practical toolkit has been designed to sit within HR teams and with line managers to aid those dealing with this sensitive and difficult issue regardless of the size of the company.
The Domestic Abuse toolkit helps employers identify the signs that abuse may be happening, such as personality changes, becoming withdrawn, spending a lot of time checking their phone, or arriving at work early and staying late, behaviour that is different and unusual to how they were previously.
According to the Office for National Statistics in 2017, approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will suffer domestic abuse in their lifetime. Such abuse does not discriminate, it can affect anyone.
The Insurance Charities has helped individuals and families who have had to flee from a violent partner and start again with nothing often losing touch with their extended family for fear of being tracked down by their ex-partner. Seeing those who try and start their lives again with little more than a suitcase and helping them through re-establishing their life from scratch has brought home how destructive domestic abuse is for the victims and their dependants.
Having access to resources like the Domestic Abuse toolkit can make this much easier for HR departments to implement, as the framework and guidelines are already provided. There are plenty of other benefits such as retaining staff, creating an open and caring workplace and the cost savings of having a policy already provided. By having workplace guidance, it sends a clear message that abuse is not tolerated and victims will be supported.
Many companies are increasingly understanding of employee’s mental health issues and The Insurance Charities want to push these boundaries further and make the workplace a safe place to discuss any issue which affects an employee’s ability to do their job.
Annali-Joy Thornicroft, CEO of The Insurance Charities said:
We have seen a growing number of people coming forward for support as a result of domestic abuse. Such individuals have often hidden what has been happening either at home or in the workplace, for fear of judgement or simply because they do not feel their HR colleagues would know how to best support them”.
Business in the Community Wellbeing Director, Louise Aston commented:
Many employers may feel that domestic abuse has nothing to do with them, preferring not to step into employees’ personal lives. But women and men who experience domestic abuse generally suffer in silence when they should feel confident that work is a safe and supportive place to disclose issues of domestic abuse. That’s why it’s vital that employers of all sizes and across all sectors take action by using this toolkit to ensure that their employees are getting the right support, and mitigate the risk that domestic abuse poses to business and society.”
Companies are invited to join The Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse https://eida.org.uk, a network of over 300 companies and public sector organisations who are working to encourage, promote and develop action to help staff enduring domestic abuse, or who are perpetrators.