City practice Fieldfisher has launched a domestic abuse support service for staff, alongside more general awareness training to help people spot the signs that a colleague may be a victim of it.
It has joined forces with Caroline Glass, who has worked for the charity Refuge for the past 12 years, during which time she has supported thousands of clients through her work on the National Domestic Abuse Helpline.
Fieldfisher follows in the wake of firms like Linklaters and Hogan Lovells in putting such a support service in place. It was launched internally just before Christmas, given it can often be a time of significant stress in domestic abuse situations.
It is fully firm-funded and falls within Fieldfisher’s WorkWell programme, which offers staff advice and assistance on financial, psychological, physical and social wellbeing.
Ms Glass aid: “My approach to victims or anyone in need of advice is to start by carrying out a risk assessment and working alongside them to discuss what they feel are the safest next steps.
“This may be to explore protective injunctions, housing options, how to manage social service intervention or child contact arrangements, or it may simply be to discuss what is happening and what is likely to happen in the future.
“The first step is the bravest and most difficult one. Fieldfisher and I will support anyone who needs to take back control and to do this in a safe, planned way.”
The support will generally be offered over six sessions with Ms Glass, and the firm already offers paid compassionate leave for those who need time off work to access support or deal with issues arising from domestic abuse.
It also funds access to an independent in-house therapist for confidential support with mental health for those affected by domestic abuse.
To raise awareness of domestic abuse and remove the stigma that prevents many victims from seeking help, the firm will hold awareness sessions, open to all staff, discussing the prevalence of domestic abuse, tactics and methods of control, common myths, indicators when assessing risk and the kinds of support available.
Fieldfisher’s HR director, Carole Ohl, said: “While we sincerely hope that this service will not be widely needed by our staff, we recognise that domestic abuse is an invisible scourge on the lives of many people and we think it is important that our colleagues know there is help if they need it.
“Many abuse victims find it difficult to access support from external organisations due to their personal circumstances, so offering a service at work provides a safer, less intimidating option.”