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Zurich UK introduces paid leave to help employees escape domestic abuse

Insurance company Zurich UK has introduced a new policy to support employees affected by domestic abuse.

Developed in partnership with the Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service, the new policies are for employees who are living with, survivors of, or trying to escape abusive relationships. 

New measures include paid leave and emergency loans for people looking to escape abusive situations, training for people managers to help them identify signs of abuse, and up to eight one-to-one sessions with a domestic abuse consultant.

Plans also cover employees who may be abusers themselves too, including a signposting service for anyone looking for help addressing their behaviour.

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During the pandemic domestic abuse was exacerbated by consecutive lockdowns.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed a 9% increase in cases between March and June 2020 when compared to the same period in 2019. 

In 2021/2 2.4 million adults aged 16 and over, 1.7 million women and 699,000 men, experienced domestic abuse and there have been spikes this year due to the World Cup.

Research from the University of Lancaster showed domestic abuse incidents increase by 38% when England lose football matches, and rates are 26% higher when the team wins or draws.

Zurich's policies come at a time when there is expected to be another spike. 

Speaking to HR magazine Steve Collinson, chief HR officer for Zurich UK, said: "We’ve introduced our policy now as we know that this time of year can be difficult for many people and their families. The pandemic has also reinforced the need to address domestic abuse with many people spending more time working from home.

"As an organisation, we listen to our employees and what they need, both through their experiences and direct feedback and via our employee networks who will often help to shape our approach.

“We’ve only just launched the policy but early indications are that it has been extremely well received. We’ve had positive feedback for being proactive around a sensitive issue, both from staff and external stakeholders such as Swindon Domestic Abuse Service.”

The company will also offer up to five days paid leave for people who need to make childcare arrangement or seek alternative accommodation due to their domestic situation.

Rebecca Goshawk, head of partnerships and public affairs at domestic abuse charity Solace Women's Aid, said more companies should look to introduce similar policies.

She told HR magazine: "The more workplaces and employers are aware of the signs of abuse, how to react to a disclosure of abuse and how organisations can be trauma informed the better for everyone.

"For many women the workplace might be one of their only places where the abuser cannot monitor or control them. We’d like to see all organisations have policies on domestic abuse and stalking."

Other companies that have introduced domestic abuse support policies this year include insurance provider RSA Insurance and Ellisons Solicitors.

Speaking to HR magazine Chitra Watson, head of HR at Ellisons Solicitors, said: “Within the workplace, creating a supportive and open working culture is paramount. HR can have a significant impact in creating the right environment, where domestic abuse victims feel able to seek vital support and guidance.

"Domestic abuse policies are extremely pertinent to ensure that all colleagues have the necessary support package in place and a safe space to speak about any abuse they may be experiencing.”