Businesses have role to play in ending domestic violence, Baroness Scotland tells Yorkshire leaders

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Coinciding with the roll-out of a Clare’s Law pilot, business leaders from across Yorkshire were urged to do more to support employees who are victims of domestic violence. The Right Honourable Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC who founded the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence welcomed delegates to the first Yorkshire CEO Breakfast.

Baroness Scotland

"Amongst women between the age of 15 and 44, domestic violence is the single greatest cause of injury and illness. In 2005, the cost to businesses was £2.7billion. I launched the CAADV to help employers protect their employees through a number of measures that are cost-neutral but which have a very dynamic impact on their workforce – not least in communicating that being a victim of domestic violence is not something to be ashamed of."

As a result of an ongoing campaign to reduce domestic violence led by the Baroness, the government was able to reduce domestic violence by 64 per cent between 2003 and 2010:

  • The cost to businesses was reduced from £2.7billion to £1.9billion
  • In London, the number of women who died each year from domestic violence was reduced from 47 (of which two out of three had children) to just 5
  • Every death from domestic violence costs the criminal justice system £1.1million
  • The cost of losing a senior member of staff can cost a business up to £250,000

"Businesses can make a tremendous difference to people’s lives by doing just a little. My aspiration is to reduce the cost of domestic violence to £0. To do that we have a long way to go but it can be done," said the Baroness.

Melissa Morbeck, Executive Director of the CAADV said: “Domestic violence is an issue which should be approached with discretion and sensitivity, but there is a range of positive steps that businesses can take in the workplace to end domestic violence. Hanging posters in staff toilets, distributing information leaflets and making staff aware that the business is supportive of employees with these problems at home can make all the difference. We know for a fact that it has encouraged a number of employees to be more forthcoming in seeking out help and support.

"The reason so many lives have been saved this year alone is by virtue of companies joining our alliance. CAADV now works with more than 1 million employees in over 40 companies and I hope that this event will encourage more businesses to follow suit. The financial benefits to businesses which proactively seek to eliminate domestic violence, those that inform and support employees who are at risk, are both obvious and significant."

Dean Royles, Director of NHS Employers became the first male ambassador of the CAADV. Speaking at the event he said: "When I first learnt of the prevalence of domestic violence I was shocked: one in four women and one in six men are affected by domestic violence. Those people are, on average, late for work five times per month, they will leave work early five times per month and take twice as much sick leave. The cost of domestic violence to businesses is staggering and there is a very strong business case in tackling this very serious issue."

Emma Pearmaine, Head of Family Law at Simpson Millar Solicitors deals with instances of domestic violence on a daily basis. Speaking to delegates at the CAADB breakfast, she said: "Regrettably many people aren’t aware that they are victims of domestic abuse; and district judges frequently fail to recognise that domestic violence isn’t simply a matter of physical abuse."

"Women in high-powered positions find it difficult to understand how they become victims of domestic abuse. Men are often ashamed that it is happening to them; they feel alone and trapped. It is absolutely vital that their places of work are forthcoming in providing information and support."

Emma explained how victims of domestic abuse struggle with a range of logistical challenges on top of the emotional trauma. "Leaving an abusive partner brings with it very immediate challenges such as finding the time to drop children off at school and collect them before 5pm. With a full-time job this can prove very daunting – sometimes even impossible. Very often people don’t want their colleagues to know that they are the victim of domestic abuse; they see it as a loss of control and something which could affect their image at work. Keeping their job can be absolutely crucial to someone’s well-being and their ability to provide for their family. Employers who step in with help and support will not only make financial gains but will be rewarded with a very loyal member of staff."

Some of the steps a business can take in supporting and safeguarding an employee who is the victim of domestic abuse include:

  • Screening calls and emails
  • Implementing a buddy system to escort the victim to and from their car or the train
  • Briefing security on the identity of the perpetrator
  • Offering flexible working

At the event, Cathy Marsh who is a partner Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy London shared her own personal experience of domestic abuse. At the beginning of her career, she endured domestic abuse after splitting form her partner. It was partly thanks to her employer at the time that she managed to get through it and develop a very successful career.

"Domestic violence is a wide spectrum of behaviour. The abuse of someone who ends up in the national headlines as a victim of the ultimate crime, murder, will almost always have started with something small. Businesses, colleagues and managers, have an important role to play in breaking a pattern of abuse for people who are perhaps just at the beginning of the spectrum. Intervention and support could save lives."

Baroness Scotland reminded delegates that, for many victims of domestic violence, the most important thing anyone can do when asking 'how are you' is to hang around and hear the answer. She added: "I hope that businesses in Yorkshire can provide the same sort of leadership and overwhelming success in fighting domestic violence as the region demonstrated during the Olympic Games."

For more information about CAADV visit www.caadv.org.uk

To join the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence call 07917 228760 or email support@caadv.org.uk

Notes to editors: Clare's Law - formally known as the Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme - will be piloted across the Gwent, Wiltshire, Greater Manchester and Nottinghamshire police force areas for a 12-month period. The "right to ask" and "right to know" scheme will allow police and other agencies to carry out checks and warn people if they are at risk.




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