Employer guide on domestic abuse support published amid rise in cases during coronavirus lockdown

The CIPD and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have published a guide to help employers provide support to employees experiencing domestic abuse.

According to the CIPD’s COVID-19 Working Lives survey, just 24% of UK employees are aware of their company having a policy or support in place to help those suffering abuse at home.

The guide advises HR to introduce and publicise a policy and framework of the support an employer offers, alongside internal campaigns to make staff aware of what help is available to them.

It has been launched following concerns that lockdown and other coronavirus-related restrictions, including working from home, have exacerbated domestic abuse cases across the country.

Caroline Waters, interim chair of the EHRC, said: “For some the workplace is more than just an office, colleagues and a pay cheque, it can be a sanctuary from abuse at home or a safe place to turn to for support.

“Our lives and workplaces have changed dramatically as a result of the pandemic, but a darker side has been the limited opportunities for those experiencing domestic abuse to reach out and ask for help.”

Since the outbreak, crisis support charity Hestia reported a 47% increase in the number of victims looking for information and support through its dedicated app.

Similarly the the National Domestic Abuse helpline reported in April a 25% increase in the number of calls it received since lockdown began.

Male domestic abuse victims have also seen a significant rise in this period, with charities including Respect Men's Advice Line seeing the number of people seeking their help rise by 60%.

Waters added: “With a dramatic increase in calls to domestic abuse hotlines, we know that many are struggling. Supporting staff should be at the forefront of any employers’ efforts to adapt to current and future ways of working, and offering support for people who are experiencing domestic abuse needs to be a part of that thinking.”

The guide also includes recommendations for creating a culture in which employees feel more able to disclose any issues of domestic abuse, and where to seek professional support.

Its aim is to make employers more aware of how to spot signs of domestic abuse in employees.

Professional services firm EY provides support for employees suffering from domestic abuse and trains its people to support individuals within the business.

All employees also have access to Independent Domestic Abuse Advocates which offers confidential advice.

Speaking to HR magazine, Justine Campbell, managing partner for talent at EY UK&I, said: “While there isn’t a one size fits all approach and businesses alone cannot solve the problem, there are actions employers can take to help support their people.

“Proactively starting the conversation on best practice with other companies and organisations, and recognising that some individuals may be suffering in silence within their workforce, are important first steps.

“Making the issue a key part of your wellbeing approach and prioritising domestic abuse to the same extent as other forms of mental and physical health can also make a real difference.”

Due to the reported rise in domestic abuse cases, Hestia has launched a helpline dedicated to employers seeking support and advice on how to help employees suffering from domestic abuse.

Concerned employers can access the Everyone’s Business Advice Line online or by calling 0777 048 0437 or 0203 879 3695 between the opening hours of 10am-3pm Monday to Friday.

The CIPD and EHRC Managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse guide is available here.