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How to help employees experiencing domestic abuse

By Julia Wray | Published: 27-Feb-2023

Claire Askew from Retail Trust talks raising awareness among colleagues and what to do if you suspect someone might be living with abuse at home

The Retail Trust is the industry charity for UK retail workers. It provides mental health and wellbeing support to everyone working in retail. It recently launched the Retail Industry Against Domestic Abuse (RIADA) campaign.

Claire Askew, Head of Content for the Retail Trust, talks to Cosmetics Business.  

How to help employees experiencing domestic abuse

Why did Retail Trust launch the RIADA campaign?

At the Retail Trust, we believe that the retail industry should work together to create a healthy, happy and thriving workforce.

And this doesn’t just mean supporting people’s wellbeing while they’re at work.

Businesses have a responsibility to support employees when they are going through a difficult time at home, too.

We launched Retail Industry Against Domestic Abuse (RIADA) in 2021 to bring more help to people in retail experiencing domestic abuse, following a worrying spike in incidents during the pandemic.

Off the back of this, we created a pathway for people contacting our helpline about domestic abuse to make sure they receive the right support, including specialist legal advice, information on organisations that can help and access to the Retail Trust’s financial aid to help people leave unsafe situations.

And we developed the RIADA campaign in conjunction with Dunelm and the Domestic Abuse Alliance to help businesses support their employees.

What are the campaign’s goals?

Our aim is to make sure that more retailers have a domestic abuse policy in place, and to help their managers and colleagues understand crucial issues such as the different forms that abuse can take, how to spot the signs that someone may be experiencing domestic abuse and what to do to help.

A formal commitment to tackling abuse, such as a domestic abuse policy, will make it easier for colleagues to speak up.

It will also raise awareness among staff and show them how to recognise the signs.

We have produced a template policy and a downloadable managers’ guide, to help encourage all retailers to take those crucial first steps towards tackling domestic abuse through policy and education.

Since launching the campaign, 30 household name retailers including beauty brands Space NK and Revolution Beauty have joined us to support their staff.

How can companies empower employees to recognise and address domestic abuse?

My takeaway from the session I chaired at the Retail Trust’s Leaders’ Summit, at the start of this year, was the importance of a business culture where it’s okay to talk.

Where we really know our colleagues so we feel comfortable reaching out to each other and when we ask ‘are you okay?’, it has meaning and value.

Also, knowing your colleagues reasonably well can help you spot when things may not be quite right in their world. It’s worth pointing out too, that it’s okay to not have all the answers when talking to someone who is experiencing domestic abuse.

Your role as a trusted manager or colleague is to listen without judgement and, when they are ready, to signpost them to the experts, be that Retail Trust, HR or a domestic abuse specialist organisation, such as Women’s Aid, that can help.

Training to help managers identify the signs of domestic abuse is critical.

Abuse takes many forms, including emotional, verbal and financial.

In the event of an employee being abused at home, how should retailers and other employers proceed?

One of the most helpful things you can do to support someone who has disclosed abuse is to listen and to believe them.

If a person experiencing domestic abuse feels there is somebody they can confide in and that they’ll be taken seriously, that makes a huge difference.

For example, River Island has worked on training its team of mental health allies who feel able to support targets of abuse. While at Dunelm, the focus is on listening and believing without judgement.

It can, of course, be tempting to encourage someone to leave an abusive partner or situation; however, it’s not that easy and may put their life at risk.

Instead, you could look to encourage their access to the right kind of support.

How can companies empower employees to recognise and address domestic abuse?

If you want to find out more on what employers can do to help, from raising awareness and spotting the warning signs that someone may be experiencing abuse to the training and policy guidance available, go to the Retail Trust’s website.

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