Causeway Chronicle

Platinum status for Trust’s workplace strategy to support victims of domestic abuse

Jacqui Reid, Director of Human Resources, Organisational Development and Corporate Communications, Anne O’Reilly, Chairperson, Robin Swann, Health Minister, Mary Murphy, from the Social Services Learning and Development Team, Michelle Morris, Senior Human Resources Manager and Jennifer Welsh, Chief Executive, mark the relaunch of the Northern Trust’s policy on workplace support for domestic and/or sexual abuse.

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has been awarded Platinum Workplace Charter Status from Onus in recognition of its support strategy for staff who are victims of domestic abuse.

This month, the Trust is relaunching its policy on workplace support for domestic and/or sexual abuse, and has begun bespoke staff training to raise awareness among managers and colleagues on spotting signs of abuse. 

A toolkit has also been created to better equip staff to support colleagues who may be experiencing abuse, helping to direct them to the right advice and services.

Jacqui Reid, Director of Human Resources, Organisational Development and Corporate Communications with the Northern Trust, said: “We’ve had a policy in place for some time but so much progress has been made in this area; with the recent review by the Department of Health and Department of Justice, we felt it was timely to refresh our policy and start having those conversations again with our teams.

“As one of the largest public sector employers in the area, with over 12,000 members of staff, we can’t ignore the statistics around domestic and sexual abuse, because, sadly, we know it impacts on our own people – both men and women. Therefore it’s vital that we give colleagues the support they need, so that they feel safe and supported to be able to seek the help they need, without fear of judgement.”

Ms Reid added: “I think as a society, we have become better at breaking down some of the myths and stigma around domestic abuse, and that is very welcome; but it is still a deeply personal issue, and it does need to be handled sensitively by employers.

“The work we are doing around this strategy is very much focussed on educating staff and supporting line managers to create a positive and open team culture that will give anyone struggling with these issues the confidence to speak up and seek help if they need it.

“In Team North, we pride ourselves in being more than a workplace; our people are our community; our community is our people. As health and social care professionals, we are here to provide a service and look after our most vulnerable, but that must also include looking after each other.

“I’m very proud that we have been recognised by Onus for our work in this area. It’s encouraging to know that we are leading the way and setting a positive example for other organisations. The health and wellbeing of our staff is a priority for us and this strategy is another way we can demonstrate that.”

Acknowledging the Trust’s Platinum status, Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Domestic abuse is not always visible and often happens behind closed doors. The support and training provided by the Northern Trust will help staff detect signs of abuse and will also hopefully encourage anyone needing help to come forward.

“We know that many health and social care staff will meet victims of domestic and sexual abuse through the course of their duties, yet the reality is that some staff may well be experiencing abuse themselves. I want to commend the Trust for the work they are doing in this area to help support staff.”

The Trust has worked with internal and external stakeholders on refreshing the workplace policy, and to develop a support pack for staff and managers to provide practical information and advice for colleagues who are the victims of abuse, and to help signpost them to the right services and agencies.

The Trust is also rolling out a comprehensive training programme and the development of a network of experienced advisors across the Trust.

‘Safe leave’ has also been introduced – special leave which is in addition to an employee’s annual leave allowance, which gives managers discretion to grant leave in special circumstances to support anyone who is in an abusive situation.

Colette Stewart, Chief Executive of Onus, said: “It’s really encouraging for us to see a large public sector organisation like the Northern Trust taking this issue so seriously, leading by example and playing their part. Their policy is a real example of ‘best in class’ and a lot of work has gone into developing their workplace strategy to support staff. I’m delighted that there continues to be a rolling awareness raising campaign within their organisation, also.

“Domestic abuse doesn’t stay in the home; when you are the victim of abuse, it takes over every aspect of your life and the research shows that 90% of workers who experience domestic abuse say it has a negative impact on their performance at work. 

“There is also some evidence to suggest that health and social care workers, in particular nursing staff, are more likely to experience abuse.

“No single agency can tackle domestic and sexual abuse in isolation; we must all work together if we are to make real, positive change, and ensure those who are in these situations feel supported to seek the help they need.”

Causeway Chronicle

Causeway Chronicle