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UK minister calls on businesses to do more to tackle domestic abuse



U.K. Business Minister Paul Scully called on businesses to consider what more they can do to help victims of domestic abuse, as Britain is on track for a surge in violence during its coronavirus lockdown.

In an open letter to empoyers, Scully said “colleagues and managers can often be the only other people outside the home that survivors talk to each day,” putting them in a unique position to provide assistance.

The business minister said the final report from the government’s review into workplace support for victims of domestic abuse, published Thursday, showed that few employers are aware of the signs of abuse, such as changes in behavior, a sudden drop in performance and references to controlling or coercive behavior from employees’ partners. And very few organizations have clear policies in place to support their employees, the research found.

“I am not asking that employers become specialists in handling domestic abuse, nor that colleagues should take on the role of healthcare workers or counsellors,” Scully wrote. “What I want to do is burst the stigma associated with domestic abuse.”

In light of the findings of the government’s review, Scully also announced plans to consult on the steps that can be taken so survivors can better exercise their existing employment rights, such as to request flexible work. The government will also establish a working group made up of employers, representatives of abuse victims and trade unions to establish practices that employers can implement.

The U.K. government has been working to tackle domestic abuse, particularly as lockdowns implemented in response to the pandemic have led to significant increases in the number of people seeking domestic abuse services. In December, it launched a codeword scheme that enabled victims to go into certain pharmacies and “ask for ANI,” meaning “Action Needed Immediately,” to get help.

Elizabeth Filkin, chair of The Employer’s Initiative on Domestic Abuse, said in a statement: “The coronavirus has thrown not only domestic abuse into the spotlight, but the role of employers in tackling it.”



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