16 Days of Action – Supporting Staff During the Festive Season

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Emma is the Director of Family Services at Simpson Millar LLP. Emma was made Partner and a Head of the Family Law Team in 2010.  Emma is Chair of the Alliance and leads exemplar collaboration with employers throughout the UK.

  • 16% have friend or colleague who is suffering in silence
  • Only 11% of employers offer practical support for staff
  • More needs to be done to encourage victims to come forward

A lack of support at work for victims of domestic violence leaves 1 in 6 adults at serious risk this Christmas, as the festive season fuels a rise in domestic rows.

Domestic violence sadly remains taboo in the workplace and despite years of campaigning and evidence highlighting the cost of domestic violence to the UK economy, employers have largely failed to implement any real support for victims.

Now, concerns over domestic violence in the lead up to Christmas have been highlighted by a new survey carried out by Simpson Millar – a national law firm that has actively campaigned on the issue since 2012.

The survey of 1000 people found that 16% of people currently have a friend, colleague or family member who is experiencing domestic violence. With Christmas coming up, Simpson Millar’s Head of Family Services and domestic violence campaigner, Emma Pearmaine says businesses must offer better support.

“First up should be clear signposting of any practical help available, along with messages of support from the top of organisations. This, sadly, is still lacking across the vast majority of workplaces.

“For women aged 15-44, domestic violence is the single greatest cause of injury and illness. Typically fuelled by seasonal pressures and often alcohol, we always see an influx of cases from women especially, seeking urgent help in the run-up to Christmas. Luckily Legal Aid is still available to those surviving domestic violence but essential help and support could and should be provided at a far earlier stage – especially by employers. I am not exaggerating when I say such action saves lives.

“Sadly, of the 1,000 people we asked, only 11% said their employers offered practical support for employees who might be victims of domestic violence. A further 52% didn’t know, which chimes with a survey we carried out amongst businesses back in 2013. Out of 50 leading Yorkshire companies, none of them had a domestic violence policy in place. This highlights a significant gap in the fight against domestic violence, and one that must be addressed.”

According to the Simpson Millar survey, 36% of people believe that their close friends or family members would tell them if they were suffering from domestic violence.

Emma says: “People generally believe that a friend or relative who was being abused at home would reach out to them. Sadly, this is very often not the case. Instead, we all need to know what domestic violence looks and sounds like so that we can identify when someone is suffering, and provide the necessary support. Given the amount of time most of us spend at work, there is a huge opportunity to start there.”

Simpson Millar has been campaigning for the elimination of domestic violence since 2012 – reaching out to other businesses to share resources and experiences which have already been successful in supporting employees.

“I applaud the efforts of MPs in pushing the issue of domestic violence to the forefront, and now businesses across the country need to follow suit with concrete action,” adds Emma. “Pro-active support such as offering flexible working to attend appointments with support agencies, temporary changes to working times and patterns, and procedures to ensure a safe working environment such as telephone number change or call screening are all relatively inexpensive to implement but hugely effective and valuable for victims.”