BABCP accredited Practitioner, Supervisor and Trainer RN Mental Health and Clinical Director Vita Health Group
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The hidden risk of coronavirus: spotting the signs of employees suffering domestic violence

With the sudden introduction of lockdown measures, domestic abuse helplines have reported a surge in calls, indicating that the problem is on the increase. Here are five top tips for line managers to help spot the signs within their team during this period of lockdown. 

21st Apr 2020
BABCP accredited Practitioner, Supervisor and Trainer RN Mental Health and Clinical Director Vita Health Group
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Female Victim Of Domestic Abuse Phoning Support Group
iStock/Highwaystarz-Photography

All advice right now points towards staying home to ensure people’s safety during Covid-19. But what if, by asking individuals to remain at their home, we are in fact putting them in danger? The charity Refuge has announced it has seen a 25% increase in calls and online requests since the lockdown to The National Domestic Abuse helpline, but what can businesses and line managers do if they spot the signs amongst their team members?

Before Covid-19 there were of course a number of organisations and processes in place to protect those who were vulnerable to domestic violence and sexual abuse in the UK, however many of these required the signs to be spotted by teachers, employers, work colleagues, healthcare professionals, family and friends. Unfortunately, with everyone being in lockdown, spotting these signs and then reporting on them is now posing to be a significant challenge. This means that we all need to do more to be wary of the signs and help those who are most at risk – and line managers are perfectly positioned to be able to help.

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Five ways to help

We have documented our five top tips to help line managers ensure they are doing all they can to look after their employee’s mental health during the coronavirus outbreak and listed what they should do if they spot any concerns:

1. The right training

First and foremost, managers must have training in mental health awareness and know how to have the ‘right’ conversation with members of their team. Companies may need to provide additional training, specifically with regards to safeguarding and managing risk. Courses can be done online and relatively swiftly, so it’s not too late if you don’t have these in place already.

2. More contact and asking the right questions

Managers will need to ensure that they remain in contact with their teams adapting their conversations to include wellbeing. Whilst line manager meetings might previously have taken place once a week or every few weeks, these conversations need to take place far more often and ideally face-to-face over video platforms.

Managers may also wish to consider changing the meeting schedule too to ensure they connect in with everyone (especially if parents are also home schooling). Likewise, they should increase the frequency of calls and hold them for shorter durations.

During these calls they will also need to be open to asking more difficult questions. Managers will need to learn how to become comfortable in asking the question ‘are you feeling safe?’. This is of course a very difficult question to ask someone, but it must be done and has never been so important.

3. Look at behaviours

Managers will also need to keep an eye on their team member’s behaviours too. This is best done over video call.

They should look at the home set up, take notice if that employee always wants to turn their video off during a call, spot for increased anxiety or tiredness and follow up with their colleague if they haven’t replied to an email or message for a while.

They must note down any changes in performance and document why these might be occurring. Is it just that the employee is tired or is there something more sinister going on?

4. Mental health champions

All firms – no matter their size or industry – should have mental health champions or mental health first aiders. These individuals should be aware of the additional risks that are posed right now and make themselves available remotely where possible.

Firms should provide additional training specifically on safeguarding and may wish to consider increasing the volume of mental health champions within the organisation.

5. Signposting

Finally, managers must be able to provide the necessary signposting and resources to manage the appropriate response if they do indeed spot concerning signals. This will need to be done quickly and carefully. Additionally, businesses must signpost staff to EAP routinely, rather than waiting for them to become stressed or in crisis.

Line managers can indeed play a key role in looking out for the mental health and safeguarding of their fellow team members. In fact, their input could make a real difference in helping someone who deserves to be kept safe during these very challenging times.
 
Interested in this topic? Read Domestic violence: Why employers should be tackling this silent, pervasive issue.

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