HR expert highlights importance of reporting signs of domestic abuse

Domestic abuse can affect anyone, regardless of their sex, age or race.

Alison Schreiber of The HR Dept, Durham, is the Peterlee and Seaham Business Park Groups’ and East Durham Business magazine’s resident HR expert.

Before the pandemic, an estimated 2.4 million adults had experienced domestic abuse in the previous 12 months.

This crisis got even worse in 2020 with calls to domestic abuse helplines from people seeking support during lockdown increasing by nine per cent.

Not only is this a serious threat to the personal safety of millions of people, it also impacts on businesses – an estimated £14 billion is lost in productivity and absences related to domestic abuse each year. Despite this, the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) reports that just five per cent of employers have specific policies or guidelines in place to help them tackle the problem.

Sharon Livermore is a domestic abuse survivor and is working with us to highlight the issue, through the launch of Sharon’s Policy. Sharon was required to use five days of her annual leave to attend a court case concerning an abusive partner who is now incarcerated, but says her employer hadn’t realised the extent of her experience, or known how best to support her whilst she was living with an abuser.

As a survivor herself, Sharon recognises that more can be done to make sure that employers are well informed on how to support an employee at risk of domestic abuse.

So, what is domestic abuse? In order to spot the signs, it’s vital to first understand what it is.

Domestic abuse can affect anyone, regardless of their sex, age or race.

It consists of any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological, physical, sexual, financial, emotional.

Sharon’s Policy advises employers to consider four ‘Rs’ to help then better spot the signs that a staff member could be a victim of domestic abuse – Recognise, Respond, Record and Refer.

For more information, visit The HR Dept website; if you think someone is immediate and serious danger, call 999.