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Thursday, 3 December 2020

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Charity launches free domestic abuse advice line for businesses

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A new advice line for businesses supporting employees experiencing or at risk of domestic abuse has been launched by crisis support charity Hestia.

1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime with 10 per cent of victims reporting abuse at work (TUC, 2014).

The Everyone’s Business Advice Line will be a point of contact for businesses, supporting them on how to approach disclosures of domestic abuse by their employees, particularly in light of COVID-19. They will also receive advice so that they can signpost staff to specialist domestic abuse services.

Hestia says lockdown has shown that home is not always safe for everyone, and with more people working remotely due to COVID-19, cases of domestic abuse are rising. The charity saw a 47 per cent increase in victims reaching out for information and support on its free domestic abuse app, Bright Sky.

While over 2.4 million people are affected by domestic abuse every year, it can be difficult for employers to recognise the signs and support those experiencing domestic abuse in their organisation. Hestia launched the Everyone’s Business programme to increase awareness and support in the workplace and have worked with over 70 organisations from the Metropolitan Police to Balfour Beatty.

Businesses play a significant role in supporting those who experience domestic abuse. Yet whilst 86 per cent employers agree they have a duty of care to support employees experiencing domestic abuse (Westmarland, 2017), fewer than one in three victims disclose the abuse at work, citing ‘shame’ and ‘privacy’ (TUC, 2014).

It’s also expensive, costing employers upwards of £14 billion every year, when measuring based on reduced employee productivity and lost output due to time off work (Oliver et al., 2019).

Lyndsey Dearlove, Head of Everyone’s Business Advice Line at Hestia said:

“Lockdown has meant victims have been away from their place of work, in isolation with their abusers, often with no way to seek support. Now, as more people return to their place of work, employers have a unique role to play in breaking the silence around domestic abuse.

“By providing a free advice line that offers guidance, employers will be able to help their employees and direct them to practical support. When employers take action and respond to domestic abuse, we know it saves lives. For too long domestic abuse has been nobody’s business and it is time it becomes everyone’s business.”

Elizabeth Filkin, Chair, Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse said:

“Members of the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse believe that domestic abuse is everyone’s business and that businesses have a critical role to play in supporting those affected by domestic abuse. With COVID-19 and lockdown, we know that domestic abuse, and at the same time employees may be finding it difficult to know how their staff are doing. We know that it’s not always easy to know what to do when domestic abuse, so having the Everyone’s Business Advice Line available for HR professionals or managers to support them and guide them is a very valuable resource.”

Susan Bright, Global Managing Partner for Diversity & Inclusion and Responsible Business at Hogan Lovells, said:

“Domestic abuse can have devastating consequences, and leave people faced with impossible life choices. Employers have an important role to play in supporting their employees, particularly this year and during the pandemic. We welcome the launch of the new advice line and hope that it will ease some of the pressure on those who are vulnerable.”

A survivor of domestic abuse said:

“When my employer started working with Hestia, it was a turning point. This was my last resort to get help. I met with their Independent Domestic Violence Advocate and talked about my experience. It was the first time I felt believed. It was like a weight had been lifted. Without this service, I don’t know what would have happened. It is vital that businesses can provide this type of service. I want to tell anyone who is in the same situation I was in that talking to someone can make so much difference – speak to your employer.”

For more information and the contact details, please visit: https://www.hestia.org/everyonesbusiness

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