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.”


16 Days of Action – Supporting Women

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Heidi Riedel is Director of Woman’s Trust. She leads the provision of specialist, high quality, accessible services aimed at enabling women to overcome the debilitating mental health effects of domestic violence.

Today is day the 11th day of this year’s 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence. Since The campaign kicked off on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women last week I have read so many powerful pieces looking at domestic violence from all different angles. There has also been global news to remind us about how women around the world are suffering.

At Woman’s Trust we have a particular focus on supporting survivors of abuse to overcome the mental and emotional harm they’ve experienced and rebuild their life. This may sound like an obvious approach, but sadly the mental health needs of women who’ve been abused are often simply not met.

When a woman is a victim of domestic violence the focus is understandably on supporting her to get away from her abuser. But once she is out of physical harm’s way that is not the end of the story. Abuse, which is often perpetrated over years and in some case decades, can have a devastating effect on women’s mental health and erodes their self confidence down to zero.

At Woman’s Trust we offer women-only, client-led counselling and support services. And we know our services work: over two thirds of women said that after our help they felt less suicidal and were less likely to self-harm. Nine out of ten said they had a better knowledge of their rights, empowering to make the best life choices for themselves and the same number said they felt more in control of their future.

There are many reasons why employers should take note of the experiences of their staff who may be suffering domestic abuse. On a business level, and as with any health issue, it affects their bottom line. Research has shown that in 2009, domestic violence cost UK businesses £1.9 billion in lost economic output caused by physical injuries alone. If the impact on women’s mental health was factored into these calculations this figure would doubtless be significantly higher.

But more importantly work can play a very helpful role in the lives of victims of domestic abuse. For instance research has shown that more than one in ten victims of domestic violence chooses to confide in a manager or colleague. For many women speaking to someone about their experiences is a huge step and opportunity, which is why the Corporate Alliance’s (http://thecorporatealliance.co.uk/) work is so important assisting employers to take positive actions to develop support systems to make a difference to the health work and wellbeing of their employees.

This support can be invaluable for employers, and there are many simple, low cost steps which can be taken to support women affected by domestic violence and who are in the workplace. This should start with having a clear policy on domestic violence and abuse and where possible extend to training, for instance about what signs to look out for that someone may be a victim of abuse and know what type of proactive steps to take to safeguard staff who disclose.

To a woman who’s a victim of domestic abuse, this sort of support can literally be a lifesaver.


16 Days of Action – World Aids Day

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Today is World AIDS Day, a day dedicated to bringing awareness to HIV/AIDS, uniting our communities to end the spread of this virus, and honouring those who lost their lives to AIDS. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, held for the first time in 1988.

Over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK. Globally there are an estimated 34 million people who have the virus. Despite the virus only being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.

In 2014, the World Health Organisation has reported that the leading cause of injury and harm to women world wide is physical injury from domestic violence. Albeit not labeled a pandemic, 1/3 of all women worldwide endure physical violence.

Our Partners at Futures Without Violence share research and positive ways to support women living with HIV/Aids.  Quoting:

“Over 60 percent of HIV-positive women have been sexually abused—five times the rate in the general population. This is no coincidence.The correlation between intimate partner violence and HIV is staggeringly clear, and we can’t continue to turn a blind eye.”

“December 1st is annual World AIDS Day, an awareness-generating day to combat the stigma associated with people living with HIV/AIDS. According to the University of California-San Francisco, trauma can play a key role in women and girls becoming infected with HIV. And once infected, intimate partner violence can prevent them from accessing necessary treatment and care. Stress caused by abuse can further compromise the immune system and accelerate the progression of the disease.”

We encourage you to read their blog - https://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/how-to-support-women-living-with-hiv-on-world-hiv-day/

It is critical that we support women living with HIV who are also survivors of gendered violence. We are certain parallels can be drawn here in the UK.

It is critical that all people who are impacted by domestic abuse, violence and HIV are respected and treated with dignity and care.

The theme of 2016 World Aids Day is Access Equality Rights Now.

Access Equity Rights Now  is a call to action to work together and reach the people who still lack access to comprehensive treatment, prevention, care and support services.

Access Equity Rights Now  is a call to action to all HIV stakeholders to unite and overcome injustices caused by violence and the exclusion of people on the basis of gender, class, race, nationality, age, geographic location, sexual orientation and HIV status.

Part of this work is how workplaces respond to people impacted by dv. As we have seen from sources for this blog, HIV impacts those who endure violence.

At the Alliance, we believe that all employers must take action to support their employees. Part of that is recognizing World AIDS Day and the diverse communities affected by HIV. Workplaces can be part of this campaign, and also in making a difference in the lives of employees.

Melissa Morbeck, Executive Director, The Corporate Alliance

16 Days of Action – The Role of Line Managers

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Line Managers have a pivotal role to play in any business. They provide leadership and inspiration to help all members of their teams to accomplish strategic goals and the day-to-day activities that keep businesses alive and healthy.

Line managers have a unique perspective – they see people day in and day out, often able to see things that are not seen by our friends and family. We often spend more time at work and with our work colleagues. Line managers see when staff are stressed, are running a bit late when transportation issues arise, when families are under pressure from care issues, and also when people are thriving. Managers understand that it isn’t a hand that comes to work but the whole person, and that home and work don’t separate when a person walks into the front door of the office.

People who endure violence don’t leave this silent epidemic at the door. It follows them to work, can be part of why there is lateness and absenteeism, presenteeism, stress and loss of productivity in their lives. Managers often spot the signs first, perhaps thinking it is a performance issue instead of understanding the nuances of how abuse impacts the workplace.

I met the most marvellous line manager at one of our 16 Days of Action activities. David is a key leader at work, and spoke eloquently of what life was like for his employee and for him. This person was frightened and alone and thought no one could help them. David had no idea the danger this person was in, nor the despair. The person didn’t think anyone was there to help or understand, and that there was no way out of the terror of abuse. David found out about the person’s situation only after a suicide attempt. David too felt alone and didn’t want his employee to suffer. Once the person self disclosed the situation, David worked tirelessly to ensure that the person received the best help and treatment possible, liaising with human resources and the employee, supporting the person during the many months taken to get safe and stabilised. She was terrified people would think she was weak, that everyone would know, that she would be dismissed for promotion and side-lined. David listened, often gob smacked at how she felt, ensuring she had time off for counselling and all levels of support. Through their conversations, David began to appreciate the stigmas and stereotypes we have towards difference, and helped everyone who were aware of the situation to work together to defuse assumptions. One of her worries was would people accept her. So David had a book created for her – from those who know, messages of support and care before she returned to work. It made the transition easier and also helped her know people cared for her. Today, this person is thriving and a successful member of the organisation.

I truly believe it was David’s intervention, patience and care that made the difference to this person. He gave the employee support, help and hope as well as a purpose, ensuring she had a job to do and was seen as a member of the team. Work became a safe place and a place to thrive. One of the things David shared was that he wished he knew what the signs were so he could have helped sooner, and that his workplace had a champion program.

Line managers need to learn how to respond to domestic abuse and violence just as they learn about discrimination, disability, responding to stress and change at work and how to be good managers. It should be part of all line manager training. Line managers learn how to spot the warning signs, where to go for help, both inside the organisation as well as outside the workplace and how to build bridges if people chose to walk a different path. None of it is easy, and always takes time, patience and building the core thing that is destroyed – trust.

We at the Alliance believe line managers must have a holistic and appropriate response to this silent epidemic. It is part of a continuum – often started in a dark place that can transform into a healthy place.

I think of David, knowing that his care saved this persons’ life, just as my employer saved my life, gave me a purpose and helped me take the tentative steps forward, looking up at the world, facing a future free from violence and shame.

Melissa Morbeck, Executive Director, The Corporate Alliance

16 Days of Action and Faith

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Felicity Smith, National Co-ordinator for FaithAction. Felicity has a strong input into strategic development and oversees all programmes,strategic partnerships and contracts delivered by the FaithAction network, having developed close links with Government Departments.  Felicity has been an Ambassador of The Alliance since 2011.

It is currently the 16 days of action, a period of time between 25th November and 10th December where there is an increased focus on Domestic Abuse and the affects it has. I’m a firm believer that it takes us all to not only notice when someone is being abused but to help them seek expert advice if they are. This doesn’t mean we all become experts, but there are simple things that we can do to ensure that the most vulnerable in our communities, those that work for us, and others, are safe.

There are loads of expert websites and information out there, but there is a clear reason why faith groups need to be aware of Domestic Abuse.

  1. Faith is a trusted place
  2. Faith groups are often employers

Going into further detail:

  1. Faith groups are trusted places. No matter what faith, there is an understanding that when in or speaking to someone on faith there is a level of trust. Faith is often seen as a safe place. Victims of domestic abuse might feel able to disclose to someone of faith or within a faith setting – particularly if it is outside of their own faith community or setting. The victim can then potentially access support and help safely, without alerting the perpetrator. So as a faith place, or a person of faith, what should you do?

FaithAction has written a resource for faith leaders which you can find here: http://www.faithaction.net/portal/our-projects/domestic-abuse/ but it’s important to know not only that someone might disclose, but what to do after. Do you know a local Domestic Abuse charity that you can refer people to? How can you refer someone? What happens if someone can’t go home or there are children involved? It doesn’t take long to research these things. Why not make a commitment during 16 days of action to look into these things and educate yourself and your community.

  1. As an employer, again you may be in a position where someone discloses to you or you may notice things during someone’s employment.

I’ve been an ambassador for CAADV for many years. They know that 75% of people who endure domestic abuse are targeted at work. 58% of abused women miss at least 3 days of work a month. Therefore as an employer you have a unique opportunity to see and act on what you see.

If you want further information, or contact others around this area, look at this amazing website: http://16daysofaction.co.uk/. There is a toolkit specifically for employers on there so do take a look.

16 Days of Action – Partnership Working

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Judith Smith is the Director of The Charity for Civil Servants.  The Charity works closely with The Alliance supporting people in work who are impacted by abuse and violence.  Partnership working makes all the difference in creating a well-spring of positive support.  We are grateful for this thought provoking blog.

An inability to access even small amounts of money is completely disempowering for people who need to find an escape route. In fact many domestic abuse survivors find it really difficult to deal with money because, over time, they’ve had vanishingly little control over money coming into the home – and frequently their efforts to work or interact with others are sabotaged by the person abusing them.

That’s why, at The Charity for Civil Servants, we’ll do all we can to put someone in a safer position. We’ve mainly paid rent and funded deposits and provided a range of essential household goods but we’ve also ensured that people have had money to open a new bank account, replace identity documents or access good counseling and therapeutic support as well as some telephone legal advice.

And it is those essentials that make all the difference – people tell us that they’ve felt safe for the first time in years, that they feel able to face their colleagues at work because they aren’t frightened of who their perpetrator may be targeting and they reckon to earn their children’s (and other family members) respect and regard again.

It seems that financial or emotional abuse often comes before other types and many survivors in paid work report that their partners monitor their work activities.   So if employers, managers, colleagues and friends could recognise the signs it may be that some abuse is prevented from escalating and some survivors could be much safer sooner.

We’re one of more than 200 charities providing support to individuals often based solely on where they work or what their occupation is and we’re committed to working with the Corporate Alliance and standing alongside employers and managers who have the wellbeing of the staff at the heart of their business.

16 Days of Action – Making Workplaces Safer

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Domestic violence is often a phrase that frightens not only people who endure, but also those who witness, family members, children and, well, most of us. It is a silent epidemic that many people, especially in their workplaces, shy away from speaking about. It is a term we use interchangeably with domestic abuse, both addressing the power and control of one person over another. Domestic abuse is a way we acknowledge coercive control, financial abuse, sexual violence, emotional manipulation, stalking as forms we are now including as part of the epidemic of abuse. It forms the pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour that men and women will endure. In the last year, 8.5% of women and 4.5% of men have experienced domestic abuse, equivalent to an estimated 1.4 million female victims and 700,000 male victims. With over 30 million people working in England and Wales, people who endure, witness and perpetrate abuse are working.


The 16 Days of Action is an international campaign highlighting abuse, violence and ways all sectors of society can come together to build safer lives. It has it’s very strong roots in the women’s movement. The 16 Days starts on 25 November with the UN International Day for the Elimination of Domestic Violence and Ends with International Human Rights Day on December 10. Last year, PHE and The Alliance worked collaboratively to create a toolkit for businesses to be part of the awareness raising, discussion and action during this critical Campaign (www.16dysofaction.co.uk).


Businesses do so much to support their employees – from wellness programs to health and fitness and mental health provision. Yet there is a taboo that is often too hard to get their head around – how dv isn’t a personal issue and does come to work. Currently, most employers understand domestic violence to take place only within the home. However, we now know that 75% of those who endure domestic violence suffer at work. This is because they are constantly locatable in their office. It is possible the person enduring changed home, switched their childs’ school, but it is most likely that they retained their same job. Hence, why that statistic indicated a vast number of employees being targeted.


16 Days is both important and applicable for all types of workplaces, whether you have 10 or 10,000 employees because the emotional and physical injury a person who endures will most likely put them out of work. Those who endure miss on average 5 days of work a month or are typically less productive even if they do make it into the office. For small companies, domestic violence will have an obvious and huge effect. Losing one of 10 employers, let’s say, would cost the company money and manpower on a very large scale. For larger companies, the impact would be more easily hidden. However, the impact is still real, as the larger the company, the more likely multiple employees are enduring. And one of those could possibly be a senior employee. If not, that same senior employee could educate himself or herself to aid their employees who are hoping to disclose and find help.


The 16 Days of Action is a critical time for businesses to look at their role in how they support their staff. This can be for those who endure, perpetrate or witness violence, or perhaps a friend or family member who is so overcome with distress that they need help too. The Alliance will work with all employers to assist in providing support and strategic consultancy on their journey. Over the past year we have helped 137 member and non-member companies with cases from all sorts of businesses who have sought assistance. All of these employees are safe, in work and their employees are safe.


Over the next 16 Days we will share experiences of how dv resonates in the lives of our businesses and friends. We will discuss solutions and ways to make a difference. We will share our learnings and encourage those who read the blog to share their experiences as well.


We now see that employee wellbeing is inextricably linked with productivity and company success. The key to tackling domestic violence is to ensure that management understands the issue, their legal obligations surrounding it, and educate them on what simple steps can save an employee’s life.


Melissa Morbeck

Executive Director

The Corporate Alliance

Emotional Wellbeing – Are You Asking the Right Questions?

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Emotional wellbeing – are you asking the right questions?

Jennifer Gardner, health and wellbeing programme lead at NHS Employers asks an important question, but beware, she won’t accept a standard answer.  Jennifer is an Ambassador of The Alliance.  

We wanted to share this blog and toolkit with employers to support health and wellbeing initiatives.

How are you feeling today?

They are just five words, but they’re so powerful and can make the difference between feeling valued and supported, or alone and unnoticed. The difference between being on the treadmill and going through the motions, or someone noticing, caring and listening, even if just for a minute.

But…if you were asked, how are you feeling today, how would you answer? Ok, good thanks, fine? Is that the real answer? Or is that just the standard answer, the expected answer? The answer that means you can carry on without an awkward conversation, when you know that in reality the answer is anything but.

As employees, we come to work every day and we bring our whole selves. This includes anything we have going on personally, as well as in our working lives. Throughout the day we all experience natural highs and lows of emotions, depending on what we are doing, what the day throws at us and many other factors that influence our response. As individuals this will affect us all differently, what one person thinks is a nightmare situation may be another person’s dream.

The emotional wellbeing toolkit was designed specifically with the NHS to explore the notion of what emotional wellbeing looked like and how it could be defined. There is a plethora of information on mental health and stress in the workplace, and many fantastic organisations and resources to support individuals and organisations. We wanted to compliment what was already available, while directly supporting our NHS staff to recognise how they’re feeling and encourage open and honest conversations.

The toolkit enables people to identify themselves against three most commonly identified emotions, on the edge, having a good day and on a go slow. Individuals are then encouraged to explore the impact their emotions are having on them, colleagues and patients and utilise the resources available to maintain, or change these emotions.

The aim of the toolkit was to enable staff to feel supported and avoid their emotional wellbeing tipping the balance into stress and/or complex mental health concerns. It also supports managers to encourage these conversations with their teams.

So next time someone asks you how you are feeling today, what will you say?

Hear how a stoke ward used the toolkit to increase morale and improve patient care and access the toolkit yourself to assess how you and your team are feeling.  http://www.nhsemployers.org/howareyoufeelingnhs

BusinessTalk TV: How firms can curb domestic violence

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Domestic violence is a crime which affects one in four women and one in six men and costs the UK economy around £1.9bn a year.

In the latest edition of Business Talk TV, Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright is joined by Emma Pearmaine, of law firm Simpson Millar, who is the chair of the board of trustees for the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence.

She describes the steps being taken to support domestic violence victims in Yorkshire.

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