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Domestic Abuse – An HR Topic?

Domestic abuse affects one in three women and one in six men worldwide, and during the pandemic, domestic abuse in all its forms (physical, sexual, psychological, economic) rose sharply around the globe. The UN described it as a ‘Shadow Pandemic’. At first thought, it may seem like a niche topic for a HR team to focus on, but let’s repeat those numbers again: 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men. Domestic abuse can happen to anyone. 

It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, regardless of age, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or education level. 

Domestic Abuse Extending To The Workplace

At Spotify, we’ve been advocating that mental health and wellbeing aren’t just an individual’s subject. For us, employees’ mental health and wellbeing are critical to the workplace and we believe that domestic abuse is more than a domestic topic – it’s an HR responsibility to provide support. We also believe that a workplace and a work culture can build a person’s identity or contribute greatly to their sense of belonging in the world.

The shocking statistics, an acceptance of the merging of work and life, and a realisation that this is undoubtedly happening in every workplace, should be the biggest call to action of a HR pro to address domestic abuse and its impact on the productivity, safety, and wellbeing of their employees.

However, only 5% of organisations currently have a specific policy on domestic abuse. 

Work Can Be A Lifeline

Domestic abuse can extend to the workplace in the simple fact that it may take place nearby or during working hours. However, for many of those affected by abuse, work can also be a lifeline. The workplace may represent a refuge where they can seek help safely, maintain financial stability, and regain self-worth. 82% of victims disclosed their abuse by speaking to a coworker, who without guidance, may not know how to respond effectively. 

At Spotify, we stand by the belief that violence and abuse, in whatever shape or form, will never be the answer.  There is an opportunity for more support and awareness within the work environment. We created tools for our all band members because – everybody plays a part in understanding, recognising, and effectively responding to domestic abuse. 

A Two-Pronged Approach

That’s why, earlier this year, our Heart & Soul team (dedicated to employee mental health) launched our Domestic Abuse Support Program. Our program takes a two-pronged approach: awareness and response. We focus on raising awareness for everyone so that all our band members can understand what domestic abuse is, and how they can effectively recognise and support others affected by domestic abuse. The response element is where we offer confidential referral services, reimbursement for temporary accommodation, safety planning, and workplace adjustments.

What Can You Do Now?

Even if you haven’t taken as many steps on this journey, it’s particularly timely to think about it now. For some people the end of the year means celebration and joy, but for others, this time of the year is particularly hard as domestic abuse cases rise globally. 

You can’t fix everything, and certainly not in a matter of weeks if you haven’t started this work yet. But you can be empathetic, you can consider that not all existing tools are equitable, and you can be mindful as you and your HR team deal with employee relations cases in the here and now. And as you plan ahead for the next year(s) think about these statistics, how widespread this not-so-niche topic is and choose the programs that make up your People Strategy wisely.

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