A powerful case study of a nurse has been used to demonstrate the potential of new guidance launched to help employers in Northern Ireland spot warning signs of abuse.
The guide produced by the country’s departments of health and justice features the story of how a manger helped a nurse break free from a dangerous relationship.
The document (see PDF attached below) provides employers with a checklist of signs of domestic abuse and sexual violence and a list of practical measures to support victims.
Support in the workplace is often about being aware and sign-posting employees to organisations that provide specialist support to victims and those who are working with them or their family and friends.
However, the case study used in the guidance demonstrates a manager, who had been given awareness training on domestic abuse, asking the nurse directly if there were any problems at home, instead of referring her elsewhere or issuing a verbal warning for her series of periodic short-term absences.
By doing so, the nurse disclosed problems in her relationship and explained that her partner had become verbally abusive to her.
With the nurse’s consent, the manager phoned human resources for advice. A HR domestic abuse support officer then outlined potential support for the victim within the workplace and suggested for the pair to meet - if the nurse wanted to.
When a meeting was then arranged, the nurse disclosed that not only had her partner been verbally abusive, but they had also physically assaulted her - but only in areas where cuts or bruises were not visible.
The story goes on to explain how with the help of the support officer the nurse left the marital home and moved temporarily into refuge with her children.
The employers also help her to move her salary into a new bank account which could not be controlled by her partner.
Once the nurse left, the partner began to wait for her outside the workplace after her night shifts. She then contacted HR again, who issued her with a personal alarm and changed her working hours.
With her permission, her colleagues were advised of the situation and further safety measures were put in place.
By employers being more aware and providing practical strategies, the nurse was given the opportunity for a wealth of support from within the workplace.
This meant the nurse remained in the workplace and was not subjected to disciplinary actions due to her absences.
The department of health claimed that incorporating support for employees experiencing domestic and sexual violence and abuse into a workforce policy can help employers recruit and retain staff and increase staff morale and productivity.
It can also “prevent unnecessary disciplinary action as well as communicating a powerful message to both employees and potential employees”, the department added.
Trade unions and statutory, voluntary and community sector colleagues who helped develop the guidance, all attended the launch event in Belfast City Hall.
A 24-hour domestic and sexual violence helpline (0808 802 1414) has been made available for anyone who is in need of support.