Help Employees to be Safe at Home: Advice for Employers during Level 4 Lockdown

Shine, a specialist domestic violence service provider and part of Presbyterian Support Northern, is offering vital information for New Zealand employers to support employees to be safe who are working remotely.

Holly Carrington, who leads Shine’s DVFREE workplace programme, says that for some people, working from home is more dangerous than being at work.

“For some employees, the workplace is their safe haven,” says Holly. “Working from home during lockdown provides an abusive partner more opportunities to control, abuse and harass them. Being trapped in the same house also means there are more opportunities for someone to physically abuse their partner and less opportunities for that person to escape.

While additional stress created by the impact of lockdown on jobs, finances, unwell or elderly family members, and childcare does not cause domestic violence, these factors may heighten the risk of physical abuse. Helping staff in these situations is not straightforward, which is why Shine is offering practical advice for employers to help their people to be safe.”

Even in lockdown, employers can play an important role in supporting the health and safety of their employees. During the Covid-19 2020 lockdown, The University of Otago found from an online survey that 9% of New Zealanders had experienced some sort of abuse. Shine and other domestic violence service providers saw a rise in extreme violence that has continued since the first lockdown in 2020.

 “One important thing for employers to do is to communicate to their staff, if it can be done safely, that there is free, specialist help out there that can be accessed by phone or webchat. The Shine Helpline and webchat is available 24/7.  Our DVFREE website offers more detailed guidance for employers.”

Shine‘s critical advice for employers includes the following: 

1. If you know or suspect an employee is being abused by someone at home, approach communications very carefully. Always assume that an abusive partner is hearing or seeing your communication. Don’t hesitate to ask for advice: call Shine’s helpline or another specialist agency for support.

2. For those employers providing an essential service, if possible, offer space at your workplace for staff who may feel endangered at home, or for employees who may be endangering others.

3. Provide information about help for domestic violence in messages clearly sent to ALL staff, so that no one will feel that an employee is being singled out. For example, include information about domestic violence along with mental health and other wellbeing issues. Suggest mentioning a code or phrase to use, if your employee is seeking help, to avoid raising suspicions.

For more detail on how to communicate with and support employees during lockdown, or to learn about how Shine can work with your organisation and team, please see Shine’s DVFREE website.

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