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Domestic Abuse and Covid-19: advice for employers

by Nicola Appleton

Measures announced to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19) have seen people’s day-to-day lives drastically altered.

The government acknowledges that the order to stay at home can cause anxiety for those who are experiencing or feel at risk of domestic abuse. There is never an excuse for domestic abuse, no matter what the circumstances are.

The household isolation instruction does not apply if members of the public need to leave their home to escape domestic abuse.

As an employer, you can play an important role in reassuring employees that there is help and support available. The police also continue to respond to calls relating to domestic abuse.

Cllr Shelley Powell, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Communities, said: “Employers can be a lifeline for those living with domestic abuse. You should encourage staff to look out for one another and reassure employees that if they are facing domestic abuse, you are willing to support them and they are not alone.”

What is domestic abuse?

Anyone can be a victim of domestic abuse.

There are different kinds of abuse that can happen in different contexts. The most prevalent type of domestic abuse occurs in relationships. But the definition of domestic abuse also covers abuse between family members, such as adolescent to parent violence and abuse.

Domestic abuse is not always physical violence. It can also include:

  • coercive control and ‘gaslighting’
  • economic abuse
  • online abuse
  • verbal abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • sexual abuse

There are signs of domestic abuse to look out for, including:

  • being withdrawn
  • having bruises
  • having finances controlled by someone else
  • not being allowed to leave the house
  • having technology or social media use monitored by someone else

How can you support as an employer?

Employers can be a lifeline for those living with domestic abuse. You should encourage staff to look out for one another and reassure employees that if they are facing domestic abuse, you are willing to support them and they are not alone.

You can signpost employees to guidance on gov.uk, which includes a list of organisations that can provide help and advice on domestic abuse.

It is also important that we continue to send out a clear message that there is no excuse for abuse. If an employee is worried about the impact of their own behaviour on others, there is an anonymous and confidential helpline listed. This helpline is also open to friends, family, community members and professionals who are concerned about someone they know.

How can you support a colleague or employee?

If a colleague or employee confides in you that they’re experiencing domestic abuse, this is what you can do to support them:

Listen to them without judgement. Do not blame them, excuse the perpetrator’s behaviour, ask them why they have not left or tell them to leave

Acknowledge it takes strength to talk to someone about experiencing abuse

Give them time to talk, but don’t push them to talk if they don’t want to

Acknowledge they’re in a frightening and difficult situation

Tell them nobody deserves to be abused, despite what the abuser has said

Support them as a colleague or manager – ask them what they need and be guided by them. It is important to be patient and allow them to set the pace

Ask if they have suffered physical harm – if so, offer to go with them to a hospital or GP

If the situation is critical, advise them to call 999 and ask for the police. You can also report a crime by calling the police on 101.

Draw their attention to the silent solution system. If they are unable to call because of hearing or speech impairments, suggest the emergency text service

If possible, offer to keep in touch by phone or online, and ask them what the safest way to do this is

Do not take on too much or put yourself at risk. Many of the organisations who provide support to victims are also willing to support and advise concerned colleagues, neighbours and friends. There is also support available if you are worried about a child.

Specific Support for Knowsley Residents

If you are a Knowsley resident and are experiencing domestic abuse or believe someone you know is please contact:

Knowsley Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub
Tel: 0151 443 2600

Or

Knowsley Early Help Hub
Freephone helpline on 0800 073 0043 and ask for your information to be passed onto the Early Help Hub and one of our staff will call you back. Or you could complete the online form by clicking the ask for help and support on this link.

Or

The First Step (Specialist Domestic Abuse Service)
Tel: 0151 548 3333
Website: http://www.thefirststep.org.uk/

Knowsley Workplace Champions

The Merseyside Domestic Abuse Workplace Scheme aims to encourage organisations to provide staff with a safe and secure working environment, creating safe spaces where staff affected by domestic abuse can talk in confidence. Recently Knowsley Council and the Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, hosted a dedicated Domestic Abuse Workplace training course for organisations across the Borough including teams within Knowsley Council as well as ForHousing, Livv Housing Group, Change Grow and Live, Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company, The National Probation Service and Knowsley’s Domestic Abuse Service, The First Step.

If you’d like to register your interest for your business to become a Domestic Workplace Champion please email safercommunities@knowsley.gov.uk and you will be notified when such training is available.