A businesswoman from Cambridge, who was made to take five days of annual leave to attend the court case of a now imprisoned abusive partner, is spearheading a national awareness campaign to get businesses to recognise the growing issue of domestic abuse.
Businesses are increasingly engaging with their role in tackling domestic abuse but still face challenges in accessing the right tools, information, guidance and materials to support their workforce.
Business owner and survivor of abuse, Sharon Livermore, is launching ‘Sharon’s Policy’, to address the issue. Today, Sharon is an ambassador for the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) and the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance, two UK-based organisations working to raise awareness of and tackle domestic abuse and provide support to those who are experiencing it. Together with The HR Dept., which offers outsourced human resources support and advice to more than 6,000 SMEs in the UK and Ireland through a network of franchisees; EIDA, the DA Alliance and Sharon have created a landmark domestic abuse policy; ‘Sharon’s Policy’ and a detailed set of guidance notes informed by Sharon’s personal experience. The documentation for employers is available to download from EIDA’s website.
The policy calls for businesses to take up four key measures:
1) Recognise – implementation of a domestic abuse policy in the workplace to help employers spot the signs of abuse
2) Respond – training provision to ensure line managers are equipped to handle domestic abuse disclosures
3) Record – accurate recording of domestic abuse disclosures by the workforce
4) Refer – proactive signposting to specialist support services i.e. for legal, practical or emotional assistance
Earlier this year Business Minister Paul Scully wrote an open letter to employers on how they can support survivors of domestic abuse. The letter outlined several practical steps employers can take to build awareness of domestic abuse, ensuring they are noticing warning signs and helping workers access the support they need. Scully’s letter follows the publication of the government’s final report from its Review into Workplace Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse, which was launched in June 2020 to collect evidence on what more both the government and employers can do to try and tackle all forms of domestic abuse.
Sharon Livermore, Managing Director of Kameo Recruitment said: “When I was experiencing domestic abuse, my employer didn’t fully support me throughout the whole process – because they didn’t understand what help I needed or how to provide it. I urge all workplaces to seek the knowledge and tools they need to support anyone who needs help, and that’s what the launch of my policy is all about. It is ready made for businesses to adopt easily, to use to raise awareness among their staff, and ultimately, to help stop someone being hurt.”
Lorraine O’Brien, CEO, EIDA, added: “When employers demonstrate that they are aware of domestic abuse and make staff aware of the services that are available, this can help to reduce the wall of silence about domestic abuse that prevents many from seeking help.
“Only five per cent of employers have specific domestic abuse policies or guidelines in place, but all will have some staff who are affected by it. We hope that the launch of Sharon’s Policy will give a clear signal to employers that domestic abuse is all our business.”
Razi Hassan, Director of Partnerships and Communications, the DA Alliance said: “We know that, on average, high-risk victims live with domestic abuse for over two years* before getting effective help. Our collaboration with Sharon, EIDA and HR Dept is a powerful example of how people and organisations can partner to protect victims of domestic abuse. By engaging with employers and providing them with a practical toolkit which encourages safe disclosure and signposts to appropriate support, we can ensure that those experiencing domestic abuse receive the help they need to break the cycle of recurrent abuse.”
HR Dept’s founder and executive director Sue Tumelty leads a franchise network of experienced HR professionals across the UK and Ireland. Sue commented: “The HR and employment law advice we give has always been based on a pragmatic approach, telling businesses what they can do, not what they can’t. With huge swathes of the UK workforce working from home and statistics demonstrating that domestic abuse is on the rise, employers have a responsibility to ensure that the remote workspace is not only prosperous and productive, but also a safe place for their employees.
“Our mission as a campaigning organisation is to represent small businesses whose voices are often lost in the national debate regarding how we create workplaces fit for the future. As such, we’re delighted to have collaborated on the creation of ‘Sharon’s Policy’, which makes domestic abuse everyone’s business.”
International law firm Hogan Lovells is one of EIDA’s founding ‘beacon partners’, exploring innovative ways to provide legal advice to support EIDA; from advising on contracts to contributing to an updated Toolkit for Employers to help those affected by domestic abuse:
A spokesperson for Hogan Lovells said: “Sharon’s letter to employers, which speaks about her lived experience of domestic abuse, is a shocking and vivid reminder of the impact of domestic abuse.
“Employers have an important role to play in supporting their employees who experience domestic abuse. At Hogan Lovells, we first drafted our domestic abuse policy some years ago and we are currently refreshing it. I would really encourage all employers to put a policy in place and to ensure their people know about the support available.
“Having access to a template policy, such as “Sharon’s Policy”, will be incredibly useful to employers who want to create a robust support system for colleagues who find themselves experiencing domestic abuse.”
*Source: SafeLives (2015), Insights Idva National Dataset 2013-14. Bristol: SafeLives
Additional statistics on domestic abuse · Tackling domestic abuse is not just a moral imperative. The most recent Home Office figures show that £1.3 billion was spent on dealing with domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2016/17. This represents more than ten percent of the policing budget. The same research showed that lost economic output and reduced productivity resulting from domestic abuse cost the country £14 billion. This is in addition to the nearly £50 billion the Home Office estimated as the cost of physical and emotional harm.
· Lost productivity and absence from the workplace linked to domestic abuse can mean significant economic losses. Research conducted by KPMG for Vodafone in 2019 found that UK business loses £316m in economic output each year as result of absences related to domestic abuse. In addition, due to the impact on career progression, the potential loss of earnings per female victim of abuse is £5,800 each year.
· Police recorded crime data for the period March-June 2020 shows an increase in offences flagged as domestic abuse-related during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The police recorded 259,324 offences (excluding fraud) flagged as domestic abuse-related in the period March to June 2020. This represents a 7% increase from 242,413 in the same period in 2019 and an 18% increase from 218,968 in 2018.
· ONS data on homeworking patterns in the UK show that, in April 2020, 46.6% of people in employment did some work at home. Of those, 86.0% did so as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In November, 43% of respondents to a survey by charity Surviving Economic Abuse showed an abuser had interfered with someone’s ability to work or study from home during the pandemic. Examples included hiding phones or computers, removing Wi-Fi connections, and phoning an employer claiming a breach of lockdown rules, in an apparent effort to get them sacked.
Notes to Editors
For further information / interviews please contact:
Sharon Livermore, Kameo Recruitment. Tel: 07897 316514. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charlotte Albrecht, the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse. Tel: 07729 217135.
Rosie Watson, the Domestic Abuse Alliance. Tel: 07740 300686. Email: email@example.com Rupert Janisch, the HR Dept. Tel: 07929 660 586. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse
EIDA was founded by Elizabeth Filkin CBE and is led by CEO Lorraine O’Brien. EIDA is a fast-growing network of 600+ large and small employers from a wide variety of industry sectors, working collectively to take action on domestic abuse. Its mission is to support employers to raise awareness among all of their employees, support those facing domestic abuse, and provide access to services to help perpetrators to change their behaviour and stop. Visit: www.eida.org.uk
About the Domestic Abuse Alliance
The Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance is a privately-funded company bringing together UK organisations working on the frontline of domestic abuse with the legal sector to provide instant legal assistance and protection for victims. The free to use WEPROTECT app enables an immediate referral to be made to the DA Alliance’s team of trained legal advisors who support domestic abuse victims to seek professional legal advice and secure protection measures, such as court orders and injunctions, to help them break the cycle of recurrent abuse. Visit: www.domestic-abuse.co.uk
About the HR Dept.
HR Dept. is an international network of expert human resources practitioners, offering advice and support to more than 6,000 small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) through a network of licensees in more than 100 territories in the UK, Ireland and Australia. Over recent years it has played an active role in lobbying for and influencing legislative change, including work around the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and also on legal employment statuses as workplaces adapt to technological and societal shifts. Visit: www.hrdept.co.uk
Domestic Abuse is usually something that people find hard to talk about. This didn’t seem to be the case at the Cambridge City Council and Hertfordshire County Council events this week. The rooms at the Guildhall and the Offley Place Hotel respectively were packed to the rafters with professionals from all areas of business, local councils, private and public sector. The most powerful thing and possibly surprising to those who do not work in the domestic abuse sector is among the attendees were indeed men. After all 40% of men are affected by domestic abuse and it can be argued that domestic abuse cannot be completely eradicated without the support of men and women alike.
Among those men attending the Cambridgeshire City Council event, four of them from different areas of business, were White Ribbon Ambassadors. Again this is hopefully a sign of the times that women will no longer be fighting the fight against domestic abuse alone. Also a surprising feature of the Hertfordshire County Council event is that a portion of the conference was dedicated to domestic abuse in the LGBT+ community. If domestic abuse is an area that not a lot of people talk about, a lot less is spent talking about abuse in LGBT+ relationships and it is encouraging that not only is it being included in the conference, it had its own workshop given by a representative from Galop, which is an LGBT+ anti violence charity.
Attending both conferences is a sure sign that not only is there more conversation about domestic abuse awareness and prevention, but that this conversation is reaching all corners of domestic abuse as a whole. There is more understanding of not only different types of abuse,
whether financial abuse, coercive control, or sexual abuse and who it affects, and how we can tailor support, guidance and legal help to them.