Tackling domestic abuse – ‘we want our workplaces to be both safe – and supportive’

When it comes to tackling domestic abuse, it is not enough for employers just to be offering safe spaces (although that is important). It is also about workplaces enabling those suffering abuse to feel confident they can come forward and access the help and the support they need, argues Paul Quinlan.

When we are faced with a set of shocking statistics, we tend to sit up and take notice. And the statistics relating to domestic abuse in the UK are shocking. One in four women, and one in six men will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives.

The numbers tell some of the story, though too often, only a fraction of problems are ever reported.

About the author

Paul Quinlan is head of employee relations at EY (Ernst & Young)

So we should never lose sight of what we are really talking about here; our friends and colleagues suffering, right here in our workplaces.

As Occupational Health & Wellbeing highlighted last year, domestic abuse doesn’t just affect people’s wellbeing. It also impacts their development and performance at work. Therefore it has to be all of our business.

As a member of the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse, here at EY we are working to make a positive change in the level of support we offer in this area.

We know that, with 14,500 staff in the UK, there are likely to be hundreds of our people in need of help who we can reach.

This could be through encouraging someone to seek support, signposting to specialist services, or helping someone’s friend or loved one.

Domestic abuse guidance

As part of this focus and activity in November 2018 we launched new domestic abuse guidance along with training for key stakeholders – such as HR teams. We also started a campaign to raise awareness, letting our people know they would have a safe environment to seek support.

“Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, help is closer than you think.” That is the message we are delivering to our staff and stakeholders through articles, press releases, social media campaigns, our web presence and posters.

However, before we started to communicate our new approach, we worked with recognised charities and campaign groups to hone our approach.

That meant that, when we launched our guidance, it was backed up by some new policies, such as special paid leave for people experiencing abuse. Staff are also offered specialist counselling services and access to an independent “domestic violence advocate”.

Some other support was already available, such as care pathways to professional help and flexible working arrangements. But we brought the information together to ensure it was more readily accessible to those affected and their managers.

People affected by domestic abuse at home often see work as a safe space. We want it to be more than that.

We want our workplaces to be both safe – and supportive. And through the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse we are committed to working with others to make that the norm across all UK businesses.

Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse https://www.eida.org.uk/

‘Bringing domestic abuse out of the shadows, and how employers can make a difference’, Occupational Health & Wellbeing, August 2019, published online October 2019, https://www.personneltoday.com/?p=241492

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