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Charity launches Everyone's Business Advice Line amid rise in domestic abuse

?A new employer advice line has been launched following an increase in the number of people seeking support for domestic abuse throughout coronavirus.

The line is designed specifically for HR leaders and managers to offer guidance on how to approach employee disclosures of domestic abuse and signpost staff members to appropriate services in their area.

According to Hestia, the crisis support charity behind the line, the launch follows a significant uptick in the number of people that have been seeking help for domestic abuse throughout the pandemic.

Since the outbreak of coronavirus in March this year, it has seen a 47% increase in the number of victims looking for information and support through its Bright Sky app.

The charity also opened two new domestic abuse refuges during lockdown to cope with increased demand.

Lyndsey Dearlove, head of Everyone’s Business Advice Line at Hestia, told HR magazine: “For many, staying home does not mean staying safe. For those experiencing domestic abuse, lockdown restrictions meant that abusive partners had even more control and the ability to monitor all forms of communication.”

As homeworking becomes a more favourable option for many employers and their employees, Dearlove expressed concern that this remote approach could be preventing victims from accessing domestic abuse support in the workplace.

She added: “The Everyone's Business Advice Line will provide direct support to HR leads and managers who are concerned about an employee and help them consider ways to enable those enduring domestic abuse to access help.”

Over 2.4 million people are affected by domestic abuse every year, which equates to one in four women or one in six men throughout their lifetimes, according to ONS figures.

Hestia and its partners are therefore campaigning for more awareness throughout organisations.

Dearlove added: “You can achieve quite a lot by starting with a few simple actions. Start with understanding that within all workforces, there will be people who are enduring domestic abuse and who see work as a place of safety, and as a place which provides them with an opportunity to access specialist support services.”

Company communication channels, she said, are a valuable space to signpost employees to local and national domestic abuse helplines, and HR teams can actively create a culture that equips their employees to make disclosures.

In 2014, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found just 10% of domestic abuse victims report their abuse at work.

A 2017 survey from Nicole Westmarland, an activist in the area of violence against women, also found 86% of employers agree they have a duty of care to support employees experiencing domestic abuse.

Dearlove said HR should consider the ways it can support an employee to stay in work. She added: “This could be through redeployment, paid leave or early payment of wages could assist someone if they are thinking of leaving an abusive relationship. This would help to create a culture where people would feel able to disclose that they are experiencing abuse.

“You can also help to achieve this by equipping your staff with knowledge so they feel ready and able to respond to a disclosure of domestic abuse.”

Concerned employers can access the Everyone’s Business Advice Line here.

Employees experiencing domestic abuse also have free access to support and information through the Bright Sky app.

Further resources:

Supporting employees suffering domestic abuse

Tackling the taboo of domestic abuse is all of our business

Top tips for establishing a mentally-healthy workplace