HR franchise drives roll-out of domestic abuse policy

Sharon Livermore felt unsupported by her employer when she suffered domestic abuse

A businesswoman who was forced to take leave to attend a court case against her abusive partner is calling for more employers to introduce domestic abuse policies.

Sharon Livermore was told she would have to take five days’ leave to attend court while her partner, who was subsequently imprisoned, was on trial.

Livermore is now working with consulting franchise The HR Dept to raise awareness of how organisations can support employees in similar situations and has launched ‘Sharon’s Policy’ to help them respond.

Employers can download the policy and guidance from the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) website.

It urges businesses to take four key measures to support employees:

  • Recognise – introduce a domestic abuse policy in the workplace to help employers spot the signs of abuse;
  • Respond – training line managers so they are equipped to handle domestic abuse disclosures;
  • Record – accurate recording of domestic abuse disclosures by the workforce; and
  • Refer – proactive signposting to specialist support services such as legal support or helplines.

Last month, business minister Paul Scully wrote an open letter to employers to create a ‘bridge’ between workers suffering from domestic abuse and the support they needed.

He said many employers wanted to help employees but did not always know what practical help to offer or feel comfortable discussing such issues.

The letter outlined several practical steps employers can take to build awareness of domestic abuse, ensuring they are noticing warning signs and helping workers access the support they need.

Last June, the government launched a review into how organisations can help to tackle domestic abuse, including incidences of ‘economic abuse’ where individuals are being blocked from accessing finances.

Its final report was published in January, including recommendations such as keeping workplace details confidential so perpetrators cannot identify victims’ whereabouts and careful management of situations where the abuser may work for the same company.

Livermore, who is managing director of Kameo Recruitment, said: “When I was experiencing domestic abuse, my employer didn’t fully support me throughout the whole process – because they didn’t understand what help I needed or how to provide it.

“I urge all workplaces to seek the knowledge and tools they need to support anyone who needs help, and that’s what the launch of my policy is all about. It is ready made for businesses to adopt easily, to use to raise awareness among their staff, and ultimately, to help stop someone being hurt.”

Lorraine O’Brien, chief executive of EIDA, said employers had an important role to play in “reducing the wall of silence about domestic abuse”.

“Only 5% of employers have specific domestic abuse policies or guidelines in place, but all will have some staff who are affected by it. We hope that the launch of Sharon’s Policy will give a clear signal to employers that domestic abuse is all our business.”

According to Razi Hassan, director of partnerships and communications at the Domestic Abuse Alliance, high-risk victims can on average live with domestic abuse for more than two years before seeking help.

HR Dept’s founder and executive director Sue Tumelty added: “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.

“Our mission as a campaigning organisation is to represent small businesses whose voices are often lost in the national debate regarding how we create workplaces fit for the future. As such, we’re delighted to have collaborated on the creation of Sharon’s Policy, which makes domestic abuse everyone’s business.”

Some employers already have extensive support in place for victims of domestic abuse, including Vodafone, which offers 10 days’ paid leave for employees affected.

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