Spotting domestic abuse has become a bigger problem for HR

Remote working and the coronavirus pandemic has made it harder for employers to spot the signs of domestic abuse.

Speaking at the HR and Domestic Abuse Support Roundtable yesterday (4 February) business minister Paul Scully said the usual tell-tale signs are no longer there, so HR needs to refocus on how to give its employees the help they may desperately need during lockdown.

He said: “Not being able to see if staff are staying late in the office to avoid going home or are showing signs of presenteeism, which are all identifiable signs, has meant domestic abuse victims are in need of more support.”

There has been a 80% uptake in national domestic abuse helpline’s Refuge’s services during the pandemic, which Scully said demonstrated the dire straits victims have found themselves in.

On 14 January, Scully released an open letter calling on employers to ensure their organisation is spotting signs of domestic abuse and helping their staff find the right support.

In the same month, the government also published the final report from its Review into Workplace Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse which was launched in June 2020 to collect evidence on what more both the government and employers can do to try and tackle all forms of domestic abuse.

Scully said the review found that most employers mean well and want to help employees experiencing domestic abuse, but that they don’t always know how to.

He said: “For too long a lack of awareness and stigma around speaking out about domestic abuse has stopped workplaces from putting in place the help and support that survivors so desperately need.

“Both bosses and colleagues are in a unique position to help spot the signs of domestic abuse and make sure that survivors are getting the support they need so they no longer have to suffer in silence.”

Further reading

What more can be done to support survivors of domestic abuse in the workplace?

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

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

Speaking to HR magazine, Scully detailed what is missing from workplace wellbeing policies.

He said: “All employers need a domestic abuse policy, but a policy is no good if it is just written down on paper, it needs to be made available because of the issue's complexity.

“More training is needed to produce better wellbeing policies, as HR teams need to ensure employees who are experiencing domestic abuse aren’t being overlooked.”

He also urged HR to think about what training they’ve got in place for line managers and staff, especially while staff are working from home.

“It’s a much bigger challenge to be able to spot over a Zoom call if an employee needs domestic abuse support.

“However, support packages like the Bright Sky app have got some great resources to help with this new form of employee monitoring,” he said.

The Bright Sky app is a mobile app and website for anyone experiencing domestic abuse, or who is worried about someone else. Scully suggested HR teams use this kind of platform when worried about employees who are remote working.