Many New Zealanders will continue to be encouraged or required to work from home as our COVID-19 Alert Levels go down – either as a continued precaution against COVID-19, or as the ‘new normal’ for workplaces that have now found remote working a viable option.
Being forced to spend more time at home with an abusive/controlling partner or family member, with no or fewer opportunities for time away from that person, hence more isolation and less opportunities to seek support and help, puts people experiencing domestic violence at heightened risk of further abuse and more serious violence. Additional worries or conflict in the wake of COVID-19 about jobs, finances, unwell or elderly family members, and childcare, may also heighten the risk of physical abuse and more serious violence in these situations.
We encourage employers to take these steps:
- DO NO HARM. Well-intentioned efforts to communicate with employees living with an abusive partner may end up further endangering them. So ALWAYS be careful about communicating with an employee at home who you know or suspect is experiencing domestic violence. Always assume that an abusive partner is hearing or seeing your communication, and avoid in any way alerting them that that you know or suspect the abuse. If you need advice about how to help you are concerned about, ring Shine’s Helpline.
- Remind your people that anyone who needs help for themselves, or who needs advice about helping someone else can ring Shine or another domestic violence specialist Helpline:
- Shine Helpline: 0508 744 633 OR chat online with Helpline staff at www.2shine.org.nz, 9am to 11pm, every day
- Women’s Refuge: 0800 733 843, 24/7 (www.womensrefuge.org.nz) OR chat online through Shielded Site – click on icon at bottom right of footer of stuff.co.nz, thewarehouse.co.nz, bunnings.co.nz and other businesses
- Are You OK: 0800 456 450, 9am to 11pm, every day (www.areyouok.org.nz)
- Safe to Talk: (sexual harm helpline): 0800-044-334 OR text 4334 – 24/7. Chat online at www.safetotalk.nz
- 0800 Hey Bro: 0800 439 276, 24/7 (www.hewakatapu.org.nz/services/0800-hey-bro) for men who feel they’re going to harm a loved one or whanau member
- If you are requiring or encouraging staff to work remotely from home, consider whether there may be an option for particular staff to work in the office or other secure locations if their home situations are unsafe, and let your people know they can request this by talking to one of your trained First Responders. If you have more than one person using an office space, during Alert Level 2 they will need to sit well away from each other, and don’t forget to establish a routine for disinfecting any surface that may be touched by more than one person as often as possible, e.g. doorknob, kitchen taps, light switches, etc.. According to the USA CDC, you can use a diluted bleach solution as a disinfectant: 20 ml bleach to 1 litre water.
- Communicate key messages to your staff, including how to access help. These messages should be clearly sent to ALL staff, so that no one – especially abusive partners – will feel that an employee is being singled out. It is quite a good idea to include information about domestic violence along with mental health and other wellbeing issues and helplines such as Lifeline, etc. Then it will feel safer for staff at home to read and save this information. Key messages that may be useful:
- If you are living with, or in a close personal relationship with someone who is hurting or harming you in any way, intimidating you or making you afraid, controlling what you can and cannot do, or treating you disrespectfully, that behaviour is abuse and it is NOT OK.
- Help is available for employees experiencing abuse or violence from a partner, ex-partner, family/whanau member, or flatmate. Contact a First Responder for workplace support or a domestic violence Helpline (see Helplines above)
- Domestic violence is not OK, but it is OK to ask for help. If you are worried that you have harmed or will harm your partner, ex-partner, family member or loved one, ring Shine’s Helpline or 0800-Hey Bro. One way these Helplines can help is to connect you with your local community non-violence programme. This may be a useful link: www.2shine.org.nz/get-help/i-am-using-violence
- Ring 111 for police if you or someone else is in an emergency situation being physically hurt or threatened by someone. If it is not safe to talk, on your mobile then push 55 to be put through to Police, on your landline push any key. Go here for more information about the 111 ‘Silent Solution’.
- Consider offering additional financial assistance to employees experiencing domestic violence to help them access needed services. Specialist community domestic violence services are essential services, so helplines, refuges/safe houses and other services have continued to operate at all Alert Levels. However, there are not local services in every NZ community, and some services like group non-violence or safety programmes may only be offered by phone until Level 1. If one of your team needs a service that they are not able to access, we encourage you to be creative in thinking about how you can help meet their needs. For example, if there is no local refuge accommodation available, you might help pay for motel accommodation. If people do use motel accommodation, you may also need to assist with a sanitation kit to disinfect their accommodation including bucket. bleach, rubber gloves and cloths.
We also encourage you to think about whether you or your business may be able to help Shine or your local family violence service provider(s) in any way and to offer that support. Financial donations are always welcome, and Shine and other services may also welcome in-kind donations that can be used by our services and/or clients.