Working from home and domestic abuse support

With the return to workplaces not looking to be imminent for many businesses, it is crucial that long term employee wellbeing is built into the plans to ensure that employees say safe and well throughout the foreseeable future. 

Some people like working from home – but at Hestia, one of the largest domestic abuse charities in the UK, we know that home is not always a safe space.

the art of good enough

For those experiencing domestic abuse, COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown and restrictions have exacerbated an already dangerous situation, meaning that abusive partners had even more control and the ability to monitor all forms of communication.

During the pandemic we have seen the number of domestic abuse cases rising as victims are isolated at home with their abusers with fewer opportunities to reach out for help. As a crisis charity, at Hestia we saw a 47% increase in downloads of our free Bright Sky app which signposts people to support. During the height of lockdown, Hestia opened two new refuges to meet the rising demand; and both were filled within days.

As many employers consider homeworking as a long-term option we know that for some this will limit their respite from abuse at home and hinder their ability to use their workplace to access help. Employers may also be less able to spot signs such as a change in behaviour or routine, or even physical markers that can be more readily hidden when working remotely. So, it’s even more important that employers know how to support their staff who are also working remotely.

That’s why we have launched the free Everyone’s Business Advice Line for employers so that can respond effectively to disclosures of domestic abuse by their employees, to signpost such employees into the appropriate local specialist domestic abuse services, particularly in light of COVID-19.

The Everyone’s Business Advice Line is a confidential support line available via both phone and email, for any concerns relating to domestic abuse.

The statistics that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse, means that this is something that will affect every organisation. Yet currently only 5% of businesses have a domestic abuse policy[1], despite 86% of employers agreeing that they have a duty of care to support employees experiencing domestic abuse.[2] Research also shows that 75% of domestic abuse victims are targeted whilst at work[3], but fewer than one in three victims disclose domestic abuse at work.[4] Therefore, we know that domestic abuse can spread beyond the home setting, and it is likely that a victim or perpetrator will be in many workforces.

While over 2.4 million people are affected by domestic abuse every year[5], it can be difficult for employers to recognise the signs and support those experiencing domestic abuse in their organisation. Hestia launched the Everyone’s Business programme to increase awareness and support in the workplace and have worked with over 70 organisations from the Metropolitan Police to Balfour Beatty.

We believe that businesses have a unique role to play in breaking the silence around domestic abuse. This advice line offers guidance for employers who want to help their staff and direct them to practical support, providing a vital pathway for employees who may be experiencing domestic abuse. We have always recognised that the friends, family members and work colleagues are vital in the response to domestic abuse. The situation during this pandemic where victims are often stuck at home with their abusers, highlights how important the role of employers is, especially when we cannot access local or community services, or when friends and family are out of reach.

Working with employers to create an organisational response to domestic abuse enables employees to feel confident, and able to respond to disclosures of domestic abuse, including offering a vital route to specialist support. 

To access the Everyone’s Business Advice Line

Call 07770480437 or 0203 8793695

Email Adviceline.EB@hestia.org

Open 10am-3pm

https://www.hestia.org/everyones-business-advice-line

[1] Domestic Violence and Abuse: Working together to transform responses in the workplace’, Durham University for The Vodafone Foundation, 2018

[2] Domestic Violence and Abuse: Working together to transform responses in the workplace’, Durham University for The Vodafone Foundation, 2018

[3] Domestic abuse: workplace policies and managing and supporting employees, Equality & Human Rights Commission https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/domestic-abuse-workplace-policies-and-managing-and-supporting-employees

[4] TUC, (2014), Domestic Violence and the Workplace: A TUC Survey Report, London: Trades Union Congress.

[5] Office for National Statistics, Domestic abuse in England and Wales overview: November 2019 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwalesoverview/november2019