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

A businesswoman from Cambridge, 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.

Sharon Livermore is launching ‘Sharon’s Policy’

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.

Business owner and survivor of abuse, Sharon Livermore (pictured), is launching ‘Sharon’s Policy’, to address the issue.

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.

Together with The HR Dept., which offers outsourced human resources support and advice to more than 6,000 SMEs in the UK and Ireland through a network of franchisees; EIDA, the DA Alliance and Sharon have created a landmark domestic abuse policy; ‘Sharon’s Policy’ and a detailed set of guidance notes informed by Sharon’s personal experience. The documentation for employers is available to download from EIDA’s website.

The policy 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.

Scully’s letter follows 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 Livermore, 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, 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, the DA Alliance said: “We know that, on average, high-risk victims live with domestic abuse for over two years* before getting effective help. Our collaboration with Sharon, EIDA and HR Dept is a powerful example of how people and 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.”

HR Dept’s founder and executive director Sue Tumelty leads a franchise network of experienced HR professionals across the UK and Ireland. Sue commented: “The HR and employment law advice we give has always been based on a pragmatic approach, telling businesses what they can do, not what they can’t. With huge swathes of the UK workforce working from home and statistics demonstrating that domestic abuse is on the rise, employers have a responsibility to ensure that the remote workspace is not only prosperous and productive, but also a safe place for their employees.

“Our mission as a campaigning organisation is to represent small businesses whose voices are often lost in the national debate regarding how we create workplaces fit for the future. As such, we’re delighted to have collaborated on the creation of ‘Sharon’s Policy’, which makes domestic abuse everyone’s business.”

International law firm Hogan Lovells is one of EIDA’s founding ‘beacon partners’, exploring innovative ways to provide legal advice to support EIDA; from advising on contracts to contributing to an updated Toolkit for Employers to help those affected by domestic abuse:

A spokesperson for Hogan Lovells said: “Sharon’s letter to employers, which speaks about her lived experience of domestic abuse, is a shocking and vivid reminder of the impact of domestic abuse. 

“Employers have an important role to play in supporting their employees who experience domestic abuse. At Hogan Lovells, we first drafted our domestic abuse policy some years ago and we are currently refreshing it.  I would really encourage all employers to put a policy in place and to ensure their people know about the support available. 

“Having access to a template policy, such as “Sharon’s Policy”, will be incredibly useful to employers who want to create a robust support system for colleagues who find themselves experiencing domestic abuse.”

*Source: SafeLives (2015), Insights Idva National Dataset 2013-14. Bristol: SafeLives

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