For everyone, lockdown and Covid-19 has been a difficult time. But for people experiencing domestic abuse it has been particularly hard. Stuck at home with no respite by being at work or engaging in social activities, many have seen issues exacerbated.

Work is often a lifeline for those experiencing domestic abuse. It offers time away from home, which is not always a safe space. It affords economic independence. It provides a sense of achievement, and can boost self esteem. But working from home, furloughs and redundancies have all meant that what was already a difficult situation has been made even harder.

Hestia has already seen a 47% increase in victims reaching out for information and support on our free domestic abuse app, Bright Sky and 30% increase in demand for our Domestic Abuse services in the same period (March – June 2020).

While 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse, we are concerned that the figures will be much higher because of lockdown, and we are preparing for an increased demand for refuge spaces now that lockdown restrictions are easing. With many employees now working from home, it is more vital than ever that employers are able to offer a support pathway for employees experiencing domestic abuse.

We also know that employers can play a significant role in tackling domestic abuse, as it can spread beyond the home setting. Currently only 5% of businesses have a domestic abuse policy (The Vodafone Foundation, 2018), this is despite 86% of employers agreeing that they have a duty of care to support employees experiencing domestic abuse (Westmarland, 2017). Research also shows that 75% of domestic abuse victims are targeted whilst at work (Equality & Human Rights Commission).

The Respond To Abuse Advice Line is a confidential support line where employers can get advice to respond effectively to disclosures of domestic abuse by their employees, particularly in light of Covid-19, and to signpost such employees into the appropriate local specialist domestic abuse services.

We know that home is not always safe, and businesses have a unique role to play in breaking the silence around domestic abuse. This advice line offers guidance for employers who want to help their staff and direct them to practical support, providing a vital pathway for employees who may be experiencing domestic abuse.

Employers who are seeking advice can call the Respond to Abuse Advice Line on 07770480437 or 0203 8793695 or email [email protected] between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday for support.

By Lyndsey Dearlove, Head of Domestic Abuse Prevention