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October 25, 2016

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Domestic violence – a business issue?

Lorna, can you tell us a little about the campaign?

The purpose of the campaign was to raise awareness of domestic violence amongst our employees.  We worked with the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, which is a membership charity working with employers to empower them to support employees who are enduring domestic violence.

With the help of the Alliance, we trained key personnel to understand what constitutes domestic violence, how to spot it and how to help employees who are affected by it.  We then ran an awareness campaign which consisted of case-study type posters on the backs of toilet cubicle doors and a series of intranet pages providing further information and signposting people on to further help.

How big a problem is domestic violence?

One in four women and one in seven men will endure domestic violence at some point in their lives and in England and Wales. Two women are killed every week by a current or ex-partner.  However, too many companies assume domestic violence doesn’t happen to their people. It really is a silent epidemic.

What impact does domestic violence have in the workplace?

The workplace impacts are potentially huge.  75 percent of people enduring domestic violence are targeted at work, either through phone calls, emails, social media or site visits and that can have a significant impact on productivity.

The cost to the economy has been estimated at around £1.9bn a year, with lost productivity, absenteeism and presenteeism (20% of people enduring domestic violence need to take time off work as a result) but it’s plain to see that the price goes way beyond just economic costs.

It can also have a knock-on effect on colleagues and when you consider that most people who report to the police have endured on average 35 prior incidents, it starts to build a picture of how long these situations can go on for.

How did domestic violence become an issue for you as a business?

Our volunteering programme focuses on homelessness and when we looked at the causes, violence at home was high on the list.  But it wasn’t until  KMPG introduced us to the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence that we realised that this might also be an issue for us as a business.

Is that really a big issue for employees at a city law firm?

That’s probably the question I’m most often asked.  As an ambassador for the Alliance, I hear it all the time, this assumption that somehow domestic violence is something that only happens on run down housing estates, but that’s simply not the case – it happens in all walks of life. It doesn’t discriminate.

In the first two years of our awareness campaign, 12 employees came forward to ask for help and they spanned the entire breadth of our organisation, from someone in a very senior position to someone working in the kitchen.   That’s the myth we have to fight – this idea that ‘it couldn’t happen here.’ The reality is, it can and it probably already is.

What sort of results did you get?

Privacy was of course paramount for the campaign, so aside from the number of people who came forward for help, the only data we have comes from the intranet site.  What that showed however was that the pages on domestic violence awareness were accessed by around a third of the workforce.

We also know that the dwell times were highest on the signposting page, suggesting that people were finding resources and then returning to the page to access others.   We still get around 25-30 unique users every month.

How did you convince the business to support you in this?

I didn’t have to convince anyone.  The statistics were enough to convince everyone that this was a serious issue that we needed to invest in.

Was it an expensive campaign to run?

No, not at all.  The vast majority of the investment was in the training, but everything else we did in house.  We printed the posters ourselves and everything else was posted online, including emails and intranet pages.  But it was critical to make sure we were giving the right guidance.  So it was important to collaborate with those with the right expertise.

What are the signs of domestic violence?  What should people be looking out for?

People often think it’s about physical signs of injury such as bruising, but not all domestic violence is physical.  Sometimes it’s not picked up until there’s a need for a performance management conversation, but my advice would always be to make sure that your people are properly trained, not just to spot the signs, but then to support people and signpost them effectively.

For more information on The Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, please visit their website:

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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