On Thursday 23 January, the NFDA attended the EIDA’s quarterly network meeting at Portcullis House.

The Employers' Initiative on Domestic Abuse (EIDA) is a network of more than 300 employers who work together to exchange information and create tools to support, encourage, promote and develop actions to help staff who are enduring domestic abuse, or who are perpetrators.

The main aims of EIDA are to:

  • Help employees who are facing or have faced domestic abuse
  • Teach employers/colleagues how to recognise the signs of people facing abuse
  • Providing perpetrators with the right help and support to stop

The event was hosted by Elizabeth Filkin CBE, Chair of EIDA, who warmly welcomed a full Attlee Room in Portcullis House and introduced a fascinating variety of speakers.

Lucy Barnett, Metropolitan Police Constable was the first to speak, giving her account of going through domestic abuse two and a half years ago, and its impact on her and her work. She described how, when seeking assistance from her managers, she was put in a position where she felt that she was left to deal with it on her own as a police officer, and was told by one “What do you want me to do about it?”.

She felt that for those who were perhaps less vocal than her, this response may have left people without any support mechanism, with her experience finding that no-one within the Met Police really understood how to talk to her about it. Fortunately, she said, the organisation now has a policy in place, which she had an influence in formulating, to help those in similar situations.

To detail this policy, Detective Constable Viran Wiltshire gave a breakdown of what their new policy, introduced in November 2019, offers to employees. They found through research that 48% of domestic abuse sufferers in the Met Police felt nothing changed after talking to co-workers about their abuse, so they prioritised making that change happen. An Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) was introduced, training was provided to all staff to bring them up to professional standards, and clear guidance was provided on confidentiality. They have also worked in collaboration with various external organisations, such as the LGBT+ anti-violence charity Galop, in order to better focus their efforts on helping those in marginalised groups.

The Employer’s IDVA for Everyone’s Business, spoke about her role in going into workplaces to provide independent and impartial advice to employees. With only 5% of businesses having codified domestic abuse policy, this role is one that is key to that number increasing, as an IDVA can help with formulating new policies.

The Employer’s IDVA told us that being independent of the company means that employees do not have to go through their line managers or HR departments, which helps them combat their anxiety of people in their workplace knowing. An IDVA works on guiding the employee to the relevant services that they may need, such as counselling and legal services, the police, and the National Centre for Domestic Violence. She also spoke about the Bright Sky app, which was launched last year, which gives employees private questionnaires on their phone that can signpost them to the right services depending on their answers and locate local institutions that may help them.

Various members of EIDA then provided updates on what they are doing to their domestic abuse policies within their institutions. A lot of members had focussed efforts on those who commonly work from home, as that may be where they feel most vulnerable, and also those who were pregnant, as they are common victims of domestic abuse. Policy changes were suggested, such as providing spaces for women to talk about their abuse, the ability to easily change company phone numbers and email addresses to prevent stalking, loans for legal fees and housing deposits for those who may need to flee their residence, and providing paid leave for those suffering domestic abuse who need time away from work.

There was also a brief update on the Domestic Abuse Bill, that is due for reintroduction to Parliament in the next few months. EIDA is optimistic that the bill will be successful, especially as there is now a clear majority in the House of Commons but encouraged all members to contact their MPs and drum up support for the bill.

Finally, the charity Hestia presented their first ever Everyone’s Business Domestic Abuse Prevention Awards. They were given to five organisations recognised for supporting their employees who may be experiencing domestic abuse:

  • EY
  • Metropolitan Police
  • London Borough of Barking & Dagenham
  • Lincolnshire Police
  • Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

For more information about EIDA and to become part of the initiative, visit https://eida.org.uk/