I’ve long held the view that the best employers should be more than just a provider of a regular income to their employees. The very best employers and organisations out there are those who go the extra mile, and in doing so, change – and sometimes even save – lives.

Recently, I had one of our employees approach me. They wanted to express their gratitude at the way we, as a business, had given them the support and flexibility they needed to address the aftermath of the domestic abuse they had been experiencing at home.

Domestic abuse can happen to anyone

According to the Office of National Statistics, an estimated 2 million adults aged between 16 and 59 experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2018. To put that into context, that’s approximately 6 out of every 100 adults. Take a look around your workforce; take in the number of people you have working alongside you. That’s a frightening number of people – people who you work with, every single day – who are experiencing some kind of physical or mental abuse in their own homes. And, while women are still more likely to experience domestic abuse when compared to men – 7.9% compared to 4.2% – domestic abuse is something which can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, or indeed any other characteristic.

I believe that we have a responsibility to our employees which goes far beyond paying their monthly salary and ensuring they have safe working conditions. It’s situations such as these where we have a real opportunity to put the “human” into HR; to create an environment where people feel safe and are enabled to speak out, and where the opportunities to get support are promoted and made clearly visible. When the home environment is unsafe, a workplace can often be one of the only times an individual is away from their controlling partner; can provide one of the only opportunities they have to seek help… and ultimately, to break free.

Enabling employees to get the help they need

Having spoken at length to the employee I referenced above, they and I decided that we would produce this blog post. Firstly, to ensure that our own employees know that they too, are safe to speak up, are safe to ask for help, and that we will do everything we can to enable them to get the support they need.

But secondly to help other employers, and other employees working for other employers, to know how they too can provide – and get – the support which is so desperately needed.

If you are an employer, here’s what you can do:

  1. Make an active statement to your employees, so that they know if they are experiencing domestic abuse at home, it’s okay to come and talk about it, without fear of repercussions.
  2. Ensure employees are aware of where they can get help. Whether it’s an Employee Assistance Programme (like we have in place at Benefex), specially trained counsellors, or charities such as Refuge (www.refuge.org.uk) or Mankind (www.mankind.org.uk).
  3. Make it easy to get help. Promote the above sources – for example, via posters on the back of toilet cubicle doors – and offer employees the use of a private room and access to a phone (abusive partners will often check their partner’s mobile phone records) where they can make phone calls without being overheard.
  4. Provide flexibility. A rigid working pattern can make it almost impossible for employees experiencing abuse to access sources of help and arrange appointments. Enable employees to adjust their working pattern – sometimes at short notice – and take the time away from work that they need.
  5. Show empathy. Perhaps most important of all; with so much going on in their lives away from the workplace, the last thing employees experiencing domestic abuse need is for work to become a source of stress as well. Go out of your way to show your employees that it is truly okay not to be okay. Because I promise you: when you do, you’ll get that support repaid to you, a million times over.

Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own homes

If you’re an employee who suspects that one of your work colleagues may be experiencing domestic abuse, ensure they know how to access the support available to them. They might not be ready to, not just yet, but knowing that that support is there and available might just be what they need to give them the confidence to take that step.

And if you’re an employee who, right now, is experiencing domestic abuse – be that physical, mental, gaslighting, or anything else… you need to know that it’s not normal. That you don’t deserve it. And that there is support available to you to help you break free, to ensure that you are safe and protected.

Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own homes. As employers, let’s ensure we use our collective voices to make sure that our employees know this.

For more information for both employers and employees, download the Domestic Abuse Toolkit produced by Business In The Community (BITC) and Public Health England, found here: https://wellbeing.bitc.org.uk/sites/default/files/kcfinder/files/bitc_phe_domestic_abuse_toolkit.pdf