The pandemic is making employers and employees re-assess the value of the workplace. One factor, as Business Minister Paul Scully MP has pointed out, is rarely considered: are employees being subjected to domestic abuse?
All employers have a duty of health and safety towards their employees which includes when employees are working from home. Employers need to really think about this and not assume everyone has the same home life. For example: an employee is desperate to go back to the office when they seem ok working from home – why is this? An employee is particularly distressed at the idea of being furloughed – could this be because they are scared of being at home? It is not implausible that an employee may be safer going to the office and risking contracting Covid-19 than staying at home with their abuser. Employers must be alive to this fact.
It is good to see that the government is actively considering the impact of domestic abuse on employees and giving employers tips on how to recognise the signs, but the awareness campaign needs to go further. It is for all of us to spread the word that this is a real, sometimes life-threatening, issue which happens every day.
Many victims of abuse are employed, meaning that they will likely have a boss they speak to every day. If that boss were trained to pick up the signs that something is wrong then a dialogue of how to combat the issue can start, and that is the first step to a way out for the victim. Everything starts with colleagues paying attention to each other more and talking about abuse openly. Employers have the power to start that dialogue today.
Read Mr Scully’s full letter for advice on how employers can combat domestic abuse here. This includes free tips which employers can do almost immediately, and I would strongly recommend that employers read it.
Business Minister Paul Scully said employers could be a "bridge between a worker and the support they need". "It was once taboo to talk about mental health, but now most workplaces have well-established policies in place. We want to see the same happen for domestic abuse, but more quickly and more effectively," he said in an open letter to employers.