The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have recently published ‘Managing and supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse: a guide for employers’ (the Guide).
In recognising that workplaces can often be one of the few places that a person experiencing abuse can be separate from their abuser, and the result of COVID-19 and related restrictions, dramatically curtailing the escape routes or time apart from an abuser, the Guide recommends that employers have a clear policy in place supporting employees experiencing domestic abuse but also an effective framework of support. The Guide sets out four steps of what an employer’s support framework could look like:
- Recognise the problem, for example by looking for sudden changes in behaviour or changes in the quality of work performance, and by being careful when raising issues with people working from home in case the employee’s abuser monitors their emails or other methods of communications.
- Respond appropriately to disclosure, for example by showing empathy and compassion, by not asking for proof of the abuse and by not making assumptions about what someone is experiencing or what they need. This includes not making assumptions about the gender of someone’s abuser.
- Provide support, for example by checking in with employees on a frequent basis, by offering flexibility in working hours to enable an employee to sort out financial, housing, legal and childcare issues and by offering paid leave for those experiencing domestic abuse to enable them to get the help they need.
- Refer to the appropriate help, for example by signposting employees to specialist help including having a list of easily accessible support services available to employees.
Throughout the Guide, the CIPD and EHRC reiterate that the role of employers is not to act as counsellors but rather to support someone experiencing domestic abuse. The Guide recommends open work cultures to help break the silence and stresses the need for role and responsibilities, such as those of HR and line management, to be clear when it comes to providing support.
Sadly, it has been well documented that domestic abuse has surged since the start of lockdown. The UN has referred to this abuse as a “shadow pandemic” with the number of cases increasing significantly across the world. The CIPD and EHRC consider employers to be in a strong position to create a safe and supportive workplace environment to tackle domestic abuse. With the increase in home-working, employers are already having to reframe how to engage with staff who are not in the office and the boundary between work-life and home-life can become a little more blurred. However this is one area where an employer’s support for employees in their home-life could be really significant for them.
If you would like more information or advice on how to support members of staff experiencing domestic abuse, or would like assistance in drafting a domestic abuse policy for your organisation, then please contact a member of our Employment and Pensions Team or call 0207 880 4263.