HR asked to introduce new domestic abuse policy following rise in cases

There was a rise of domestic abuse cases in the first lockdown, demonstrating the need for HR to introduce better policies to protect its employees while working from home.

According to the Office of National Statistic, the police recorded 206,492 domestic abuse-related cases between March and June 2020, a 9% increase compared with the same period in 2019.

Yesterday (29 March) Sharon Livermore, a businesswoman from Cambridge, launched a new domestic abuse campaign to raise awareness of the issue among employers. 

Livermore was made to take five days of annual leave to attend the court case of her now imprisoned abusive partner.

She has now created a new policy, Sharon's Policy,  with help from HR consultancy The HR Dept, the Domestic Abuse Alliance and Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA). 

Based on Livermore's experience, the policy calls for businesses to take up four key measures - to recognise, respond, record and refer, cases of domestic abuse.

It is also calling for better training to make sure line managers are equipped to handle domestic abuse disclosures.

The HR Dept’s founder and executive director Sue Tumelty said it is now harder for employers to spot the signs of domestic abuse as many colleagues no longer share the same physical workspace.

She said: “The HR and employment law advice we give has always been based on a pragmatic approach, telling businesses what they can do, not what they can’t.

“With huge swathes of the UK workforce working from home and statistics demonstrating that domestic abuse is on the rise, employers have a responsibility to ensure that the remote workspace is not only prosperous and productive, but also a safe place for their employees.”

Although lockdown restrictions are easing, the roadmap out of the pandemic has outlined the majority of the UK workforce will continue working remotely until June.

Employees may also choose to stay remote post pandemic, as two thirds (67%) of UK chief HR officers said they plan to encourage employees to work remotely on a regular basis after lockdown.

Steve Herbert, head of benefits strategy at Howden Employee Benefits & Wellbeing, told HR magazine domestic abuse usually has very little traction in the area of HR policy making because it is generally something that happens away from the workplace. 

He said: “A move [to remote working] perhaps extends the employer’s duty of care to the home environment too and suggests that employers should now be looking to introduce a formal policy in place to support workers who are victims of domestic abuse.”

Herbert welcomed the new policy and said: “Hopefully it will act as a wake-up call to employers to look for the warning signs that are all too often visible but ignored.”

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