Survivor’s experience of domestic abuse informs new policy for employers

A Cambridgeshire businesswoman who was made to take five days of annual leave to attend the court case of a now imprisoned abusive partner is spearheading a national awareness campaign to get businesses to recognise the growing issue of domestic abuse.

Monday, 29th March 2021, 4:48 am

Businesses are increasingly engaging with their role in tackling domestic abuse but still face challenges in accessing the right tools, information, guidance and materials to support their workforce.

Now, business owner and survivor of abuse Sharon Livermore is launching ‘Sharon’s Policy’ to address the issue and is calling for government support.

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Sharon Livermore

Today, Sharon is an ambassador for the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) and the Domestic Abuse (DA) Alliance, two UK-based organisations working to raise awareness of, and tackle, domestic abuse and provide support to those who are experiencing it.

Sharon has joined with The HR Dept - which offers outsourced human resources support and advice to more than 6,000 SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in the UK and Ireland through a network of franchisees - EIDA and the DA Alliance to create a landmark domestic abuse policy.

Called ‘Sharon’s Policy,’ it is a detailed set of guidance notes informed by Sharon’s personal experience which calls for businesses to take up four key measures:

1) Recognise – implementation of a domestic abuse policy in the workplace to help employers spot the signs of abuse

2) Respond – training provision to ensure line managers are equipped to handle domestic abuse disclosures

3) Record – accurate recording of domestic abuse disclosures by the workforce

4) Refer – proactive signposting to specialist support services, i.e. for legal, practical or emotional assistance

Earlier this year Business Minister Paul Scully wrote an open letter to employers on how they can support survivors of domestic abuse. The letter outlined several practical steps employers can take to build awareness of domestic abuse ensuring they are noticing warning signs and helping workers access the support they need.

The letter followed the publication of the Government’s final report from its Review into Workplace Support for Victims of Domestic Abuse which was launched in June 2020 to collect evidence on what more both the Government and employers can do to try and tackle all forms of domestic abuse.

Sharon, who is managing director of Kameo Recruitment, said: “When I was experiencing domestic abuse my employer didn’t fully support me throughout the whole process because they didn’t understand what help I needed or how to provide it.

“I urge all workplaces to seek the knowledge and tools they need to support anyone who needs help, and that’s what the launch of my policy is all about. It is ready made for businesses to adopt easily, to use to raise awareness among their staff and, ultimately, to help stop someone being hurt.”

Lorraine O’Brien, CEO of EIDA, added: “When employers demonstrate that they are aware of domestic abuse and make staff aware of the services that are available this can help to reduce the wall of silence about domestic abuse that prevents many from seeking help.

“Only five per cent of employers have specific domestic abuse policies or guidelines in place but all will have some staff who are affected by it. We hope that the launch of Sharon’s Policy will give a clear signal to employers that domestic abuse is all our business.”

Razi Hassan, director of partnerships and communications at the DA Alliance, said: “We know that, on average, high-risk victims live with domestic abuse for over two years before getting effective help.

“The collaboration with EIDA and The HR Dept is a powerful example of how organisations can partner to protect victims of domestic abuse. By engaging with employers and providing them with a practical toolkit which encourages safe disclosure and signposts to appropriate support we can ensure that those experiencing domestic abuse receive the help they need to break the cycle of recurrent abuse.”

The most recent Home Office figures show that £1.3 billion was spent on dealing with domestic abuse in England and Wales in 2016/17. This represents more than 10 per cent of the policing budget.

The same research showed that lost economic output and reduced productivity resulting from domestic abuse cost the country £14 billion. This is in addition to the nearly £50 billion the Home Office estimated as the cost of physical and emotional harm.