Festive season brings violence warning

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For people who work with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, Christmas looms as the time of year when instances of abuse are guaranteed to increase. The Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence (CAADV) has engaged in 16 Days of Action To End Violence Against Women which culminates on 10 December, and one of the region’s leading family lawyers now calls on more businesses to get behind the campaign.

Domestic Violence Words

Emma Pearmaine, Partner and Head of Family Law at national law firm Simpson Millar LLP is urging companies across Yorkshire to increase support to staff that may be victims, and awareness of the help available.

Emma is Trustee for CAADV - an organisation launched by Baroness Scotland to help employers protect their employees through a number of cost-neutral yet highly effective measures. She would like to see companies across the board introduce a Domestic Violence policy and is helping to lead the way at Simpson Millar LLP.

“Domestic abuse includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional control and abuse that takes place within a relationship; forming a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour. It’s not limited to physical assault and rape as many people think,” says Emma. “It is a massive problem and can happen to anyone, young or old, male or female. For women aged between 15 and 44 it is the single greatest cause of injury and illness."

“This Christmas will be a terrible time for many victims as alcohol fuelled aggression and seasonal pressures provide yet another catalyst for violence. It is my deepest hope that 2014 will be the year of positive change with many more companies waking up to the impact domestic violence has on their employees and their business - and initiating domestic violence policies for the benefit, safety and wellbeing of all.”

Although taking a pragmatic approach to vulnerable employees has huge benefits and costs almost nothing, the majority of companies haven’t yet taken steps to actively support victims of domestic violence. This has both an ethical and commercial cost.

“Many people suffer in silence, too afraid or ashamed to seek help. As well as there being a moral issue that is not addressed, there is a financial cost to businesses in terms of loss of production,” says Emma.

The impact domestic violence carries into the workplace can show up in low self-esteem and poor performance. Individuals in need of help and support may find themselves alienated from colleagues or even involved in disciplinary action.

Emma says it’s time for employers to take stock and implement effective ways to encourage employees to come forward; safe in the knowledge that their issues will be handled in complete confidence with no negative repercussions in terms of their career.

Says Emma: “Not only are victims trapped in a living nightmare but they may face disciplinary action for being repeatedly late or failing to do their job properly. Imagine how difficult it is to come forward when you feel you are being blamed from all sides while mistakenly believing that it is entirely your own fault?"

“Employees in a domestic violence situation need the reassurance that any steps they decide to take to resolve the situation will be not only viewed sympathetically but will be actively supported.”

From the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, businesses can get toolkits for implementing and managing Domestic Violence policies, as well as on-going support for HR staff as they begin to provide pro-active support to victims. In extreme cases, measures can include paid special leave for any relevant appointments with support agencies such as solicitors, housing or childcare and for court appearances; temporary or permanent changes to working times and patterns; changes to a duty to avoid potential contact with the abuser; relocation to different work areas or teams; and procedures to ensure a safe working environment, such as telephone number change to avoid harassing phone calls.

Simpson Millar LLP has already implemented a domestic violence policy that sets out what it really is, how to identify the signs, along with links to organisations that can help. The firm has put up posters in communal office areas countrywide to let staff know who to contact in strict confidence within the HR department if they are concerned about a colleague or if they are in need of support themselves.

“There are a variety of initiatives businesses can take on the path to implementing more formal procedures but crucially, employees must feel safe to come forward and ask for help. A business-wide campaign to support victims of domestic violence will create a more effective, productive and happy working environment for everyone – creating a culture of openness and trust.”


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