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Sunday, 25 November 2018

Council urges employers to ‘Open the Door’ and tackle domestic abuse


A campaign to help employers spot the signs of domestic abuse in work colleagues has been launched to help raise awareness of the issue. 

A ‘White Ribbon’ event took place today (Friday) at Holmes Chapel Community Centre, which discussed domestic abuse and ways in which businesses and the community can encourage people to speak out about it.

White Ribbon Day, which takes place on Sunday 25 November, is an annual event that aims to end male violence against women, once and for all..

This new phase of the wider pan-Cheshire domestic abuse campaign, called ‘Open the Door’, is specifically targeted to tackle domestic abuse in the workplace.

A national report, published in July, supported by Public Health England, found that an estimated 1.9 million adults aged 16-59 experienced domestic abuse in the last year but only five per cent of organisations have a specific policy or guidelines on the issue. This report features a useful toolkit that aims to equip employers and employees with the knowledge to feel confident speaking about unhealthy relationships.

The Open the Door campaign focusses on a collective responsibility to tackle domestic abuse and employers have an important role to play in society’s response to it. Employers have a duty of care to employees and a legal responsibility to provide a safe and effective working environment.

The campaign encourages friends, colleagues and employers to look out for signs and symptoms of abuse, such as:

● Changes in work productivity; frequent absence, lateness, reduced quality of work, spending an increased time at work for no reason;

● Changes in behaviour or demeanour; out of character conduct, being isolated, becoming quiet, anxious, frightful, aggressive, obsession with leaving work on time;

● Physical indicators; bruising, repeated injury with unlikely explanations, change in pattern or amount of make-up used, wearing clothes that don’t suit the climate which may be used to hide injuries, substance misuse, fatigue;

● A partner or ex-partner stalking an employee in or around workplace or exerting an unusual amount of control over their work schedule; and

● Isolation from family and friends.

One survivor of domestic violence said: “My ex-husband became abusive soon after we were married. Without the support of my employer I would have struggled to get through my darkest days and I would not be here today.”

For some people, work can be a helpful and supportive environment where their value and contribution is fully recognised. It can also be a place to get support for anything that happens at home. However, without a clear policy and procedure, employers might not recognise they have responsibilities to provide a safe working environment. Additionally, survivors may not feel able to be open about the difficulties that may affect their attendance and productivity.

Julian Cobley, managing director of Cheshire East’s wholly-owned Skills and Growth Company, said: “By making a commitment to respond to domestic abuse, more people will be introduced to support that they didn’t know was available.

“We are here to support businesses to introduce work-based policies in their organisations and will be available to anyone that needs assistance in taking positive action. Providing proper support to employees has a hugely positive effect on businesses and the economy as a whole.

“When signs of domestic abuse are not acted upon, the cost to everyone is great. Productivity drops, absences become more commonplace but, most importantly, the health of those directly impacted often deteriorates.”

Councillor Jos Saunders, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for children and families, said: “Our work to tackle domestic abuse in the workplace is a critical part of the Open the Door campaign and linking in with local businesses will help us spread the message further afield. That message is that we will never tolerate domestic abuse and, by uniting in this way, we are going to do everything in our power to stamp it out.”

If you are affected by domestic abuse, or concerned for someone else, call 0300 123 5101 at any time or visit: www.openthedoorcheshire.org.uk

In an emergency, always call 999.

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