Greg Wright: Domestic abuse follows the victims to the workplace

Emma Pearmaine has played a leading role in developing the work of the CAADV.  Picture Scott Merrylees
Emma Pearmaine has played a leading role in developing the work of the CAADV. Picture Scott Merrylees
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SOMETIMES it’s impossible to split the personal from the professional.

If you’re a victim of domestic violence, there’s a good chance your abuser will try to torment you at work.

Here’s a chilling story to illustrate this point. When a bouquet of irises arrived at a woman’s workplace, they seemed to be a loving gift from her husband. But attached to them was a note, which read: “These are the flowers I will put on your grave.”

She was being threatened with death if she ever exposed the physical and emotional abuse she was suffering at home, which is supposed to be the place of greatest safety. I came across this case study when I was carrying out research into the work of the Corporate Alliance Against Domestic Violence, (CAADV) an organisation that aims to reduce the financial and human cost of domestic abuse and violence by working in partnership with employers.

Domestic violence is a crime which affects one in four women and one in six men and costs the UK economy around £1.9bn a year.

We’re currently in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, a United Nations-backed campaign to end violence against women and girls around the world.

To mark this campaign the CAADV is highlighting the vital role managers can play in supporting and protecting victims of domestic violence.

The CAADV is made up of big companies who are working together to support victims. They are also encouraging their abusers to seek help.

Many domestic violence victims are reluctant to tell their employers about their anguish because they fear they will be shunned or overlooked for promotion. Seventy five per cent of victims are targeted at work, often via phone calls or threatening text messages.

A failure to support domestic violence victims carries an enormous economic cost. Victims of domestic violence are more likely to be off sick or turn up late, through no fault of their own. That’s why managers have a pivotal role in ending domestic abuse. They can spot changes in an employee’s behaviour or performance which could be signs that there is a problem at home.

Melissa Morbeck, the executive director of the CAADV, said: “People who endure violence don’t leave this silent epidemic at the door. It follows them to work.”

Ms Morbeck offers sound advice for line managers at thecorporateallianceco.uk. Good managers understand that the whole person comes to work. Home and work cannot separate when a person walks into the office, Ms Morbeck said.

She added: “Line managers need to learn how to respond to domestic abuse and violence just as they learn how to deal with discrimination and disability,

“It should be part of all line managers’ training.

“None of it is easy, and always takes time, patience and building the core thing that is destroyed – trust.”

Emma Pearmaine, the managing director of Huddersfield-based Ridley & Hall solicitors, who is also the chair of the board of trustees for the CAADV, believes managers must realise that not all abuse is physical. It can also be emotional and financial. Many victims lose control of their finances. The CAADV has a growing supporter base in Yorkshire. It already has a strong following in the region’s healthcare and legal sector, and the group is talking to large supermarket groups, who are also interested in signing up.

By protecting your employees, you are boosting your organisation’s productivity, because it will reduce the amount of time staff are absent from work.

Ms Pearmaine said: “Strong domestic violence policies in the workplace provide protection, empowerment and reassurance to employees at a time when they most need it.”

The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence is a global response to a pandemic. One in three women worldwide experience violence because of their gender.

But employers close to home can make a difference, simply by spotting the signs of private torment. A timely, sensitive intervention really could save a life.