Written by Melissa Morbeck
When you are experiencing domestic abuse, it infiltrates every aspect of your life. From the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, it’s there.
Yes, that includes while you’re at work.
We spend a third of our lives working. When we are at work, it’s not just one part of us at work, it is all of who we are and what is happening in our lives. If the boiler needs to be replaced, or our childcare falls through, or our transport is problematic, it affects us and it affects our working life.
When we are experiencing something as profound as domestic abuse, we can’t simply stop thinking about it. Work can be a sanctuary, however for most of us, domestic abuse affects our work in so many ways, including stunting career progression, reducing our productivity and increasing presenteeism.
This year, employers continue to sit back and listen to the lives of their employees, now taking the time to understand the ways in which domestic abuse is affecting their employees and their organisation.
We’ve welcomed news from EY, Vodafone and Barking & Dagenham Council that they are implementing a policy specifically for people who endure domestic abuse, introducing paid leave for those affected. It’s an important step in the right direction. This ‘safe leave’ provides a potential window for employees affected to regain stability in a situation that wreaks havoc in both personal and professional life.
It will enable those who have faced abuse and are safe outside of work to seek out further support or to attend counselling, police, court or doctors’ appointments. It will provide time for those affected to make suitable housing arrangements or organise childcare if needs be.
It’s wonderful news, yet it stems from a conversation that started decades ago. It is a conversation that has progressed, but action is not happening fast enough if our aim is to see real, discernible change.
75 per cent of people experiencing domestic abuse are targeted at work. Meanwhile, research unveiled by Vodafone this week indicates that more than half of people experiencing domestic abuse say shame prevents them from talking about it at work. There’s a disconnect, and it’s causing a crucial opportunity to tackle abuse to be disregarded.
For some, taking time off isn’t the answer. It’s part of the solution, but it’s not the whole solution. For some, work is a place of safety, a place where you can make necessary appointments and begin to build a new life away from the abuse and violence of your partner.
If we begin to end the conversation with paid leave as the sole solution, we begin to underestimate the extent of domestic abuse. It’s impossible to recover entirely in 10 days or two weeks. Trauma that coincides with experiencing domestic abuse cannot be forgotten in 10 days.
For far too long, a “it’s none of my business, it’s not a workplace issue” mentality has plagued organisations across the country when it comes to abuse. The fact is, it’s everyone’s business. It’s not an issue happening behind closed doors. It’s happening to employees and it’s happening at work.
It is costing employers over £1.9 billion annually in lost wages, turnover, absenteeism and brand reputation.
As the Chief Executive of The Corporate Alliance, I’m proud to see this change happening – but we need action from all organisations.
Paid leave is a start, but other businesses must follow the path laid out by Vodafone, EY and Barking & Dagenham Council, introducing other HR policies aimed at raising awareness of domestic abuse, and formulating a proactive response when aware of an employee enduring abuse.
By equipping businesses with the tools necessary to recognise and improve their response to the issue, we will begin to see a holistic approach to domestic abuse prevention.
For the 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men who will sadly face domestic abuse in their lifetime, having their employee in their corner could be a lifesaver.
Get in touch with the Everyone’s Business team at Everyones.Business@hestia.org.
If you’re experiencing domestic abuse, call the 24hr Freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline (run in partnership between Women’s Aid and Refuge) on 0808 2000 247.
If you’re a man experiencing domestic abuse, call the Mankind helpline on 01823 334244.
Download the free Bright Sky app for support and information if you’re experiencing domestic abuse, or if you’re concerned about someone you know.