The event was opened by Amanda Lucas, L&D, Talent and Dnl Manager at Allianz Global Corporate and Speciality, who bravely shared her story about her own experience of domestic abuse. She spent years trapped in a relationship where she constantly felt unsafe, uncomfortable and vulnerable in her own home.
Amanda finally managed to leave the abusive relationship, but the harassment continued. According to the ACAS, an organisation that and helps employers by providing information and advice to prevent or resolve workplace problems, the period just after leaving an abusive relationship is the most dangerous. Abusers often try to reach their ex-partners in the workplace, with an estimated 89% of survivors receiving abusive calls at work. Employers, by law, have a duty of care to their employees and should take the necessary steps to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of their team. So why is workplace support for domestic abuse often a topic that is overlooked?
Amanda’s courageous story was followed by a panel discussion between Dr Chris Newman, director of Partner Abuse Intervenors (PAI), working with men addressing their violence and abuse to partners; Dr Jasna Magic, research and policy officer at Galop, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity; and Paul Quinlan, Head of Employee Relations at EY. The discussion was chaired by Anthea Sully, CEO of White Ribbon UK, the national campaign that engages with men and boys to end male violence against women.
Anthea began the discussion by sharing facts from Melissa Morbeck, Executive Director at the Corporate Alliance, who unfortunately was unable to attend the event. Shockingly, one quarter of women and one in six men experience domestic abuse at some point in their adult lifetime. In the UK, nearly 2 million people experienced domestic abuse last year alone which equated to £1.9billion in costs to businesses due to decreased productivity, time off work, lost wages and sick pay. Accordingly, it makes sense for domestic abuse to be a priority for employers.
Paul applied these statistics to employee numbers at EY and recognised that domestic abuse was a problem that should take precedence internally. EY soon became the first of the big four accountancy firms to join the Employer’s Initiative on Domestic Abuse and launched its guide on domestic abuse with the aim of teaching people about it, raising awareness that it happens and providing details on all the support routes available. The accountancy firm also offers a week of paid leave for anyone who experiences domestic abuse.
Following Paul’s explanation of what organisations can do to help people suffering from domestic violence, Jasna explained how the topic affects the LGBT+ community. Revealing that one quarter of gay men and lesbian women report domestic abuse, and one in three bi-sexual people. Undoubtably, she explained, more needs to be done to protect and support the LGBT+ community. Not only does an employee initiative need to be introduced for domestic abuse, but an organisation must demonstrate that their company culture is accepting of the LGBT+ community through supporting diverse cultures and getting involved in pride events.
Dr Chris Newman highlighted his work with perpetrators of domestic abuse has taught him that these perpetrators are often “not the kind of person” you would consider to be an abuser. This a theme that resonated throughout the discussion: domestic abuse can affect anyone. Stereotyping perpetrators or those who suffer from abuse is often done but can be extremely damaging, creating barriers to disclosing.
There are many resources available to help businesses introduce domestic abuse measures into their employee wellbeing initiatives including free governmental resource and helplines. White Ribbon carries out initiatives to increase awareness in the workplace and there are apps for those abused to seek out help, such as Bright Sky.
Domestic violence, as Chris explained, “is something that we have a sphere of influence over. If we give people the place to come forward, everything else will fall into place.”