Too many employers failing to support staff at risk of domestic violence, says Simpson Millar lawyer

Emma Pearmaine, director of family services at Simpson Millar in Leeds, has said that employers need to do more to support staff who are at risk of domestic violence.

Pearmaine has called for extra action following an announcement this week that police forces received more than 350,000 reports of domestic violence in the year up to April 2015, a rise of more than one third. She said that the increase chimed with research carried out by Simpson Millar in November which found that 16% of people currently have a friend, colleague or family member who is experiencing domestic violence.

The firm has also discovered that only 11% of those surveyed said that their employers offered practical support for potential victims. A further 52% didn’t know if any support was available from their employer.

“People generally believe that a friend or relative who was being abused at home would reach out to them,” said Pearmaine.

“Sadly, this is very often not the case. Instead, we all need to know what domestic violence looks and sounds like so that we can identify when someone is suffering, and provide the necessary support. Given the amount of time most of us spend at work, there is a huge opportunity to start there.”

“For women aged 15-44, domestic violence is the single greatest cause of injury and illness. Typically fueled by alcohol and other seasonal pressures, we always see an influx of cases from women especially, seeking urgent help in the run-up to Christmas. Luckily Legal Aid is still available to those surviving domestic violence but essential help and support could and should be provided at a far earlier stage – especially by employers. I am not exaggerating when I say such action saves lives.”

She said that employers could offer pro-active support such as offering flexible working to attend appointments with support agencies, as well as temporary changes to working times and patterns. In addition, they could ensure a safe working environment for victims by allowing for telephone number changes or call screening, which were all relatively inexpensive measures to implement.

Pearmaine, who is a trustee for domestic violence charity, the Corporate Alliance against Domestic Violence (CAADV), recently joined Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn at a reception for campaigners on the eve of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

She said that she applauded the efforts of MPs in pushing the issue of domestic violence to the forefront and that businesses across the country needed to follow suit with “concrete action”.