The government have suggested that lack of awareness and stigma around domestic abuse has caused employers to fail in protecting their employees in abuse situations.
Calls to domestic abuse services have surged in the pandemic as couples spend more time at home.
Business Minister, Paul Scully has suggested that domestic abuse victims should receive the support they need from their employers if needed and that 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”.
Managers and colleagues are often the only other people outside the home that victims talk to each day and so “uniquely placed” to spot signs of abuse, he said.
These include becoming more withdrawn than usual, sudden drops in performance, mentions of controlling or coercive behaviour in partners, or physical signs such as bruising.
Businesses encouraged to share the problems
Employers do not have to be professionals in handling domestic abuse but could do more to help, including:
- Ensuring staff can spot the signs of a colleague facing domestic abuse so they can respond appropriately and sympathetically.
- Communicating that they are there to help, and promoting information about support services.
- Fostering a more open work environment where workers feel able to share problems.
- Offering practical support such as space and privacy to make calls and arrangements or access to financial help.
Domestic violence charity Refuge said it saw an 80% increase in calls to its helpline during the first national lockdown, a trend the government believes has continued.
And in November, 43% of respondents to a survey by charity Surviving Economic Abuse showed an abuser had interfered with someone’s ability to work or study from home during the crisis.
Domestic abuse isn’t a new problem, nor does today’s call to businesses apply only during a pandemic.
But coronavirus has highlighted new and existing risks.