Economic abuse is a serious issue but not enough employers are taking it seriously (see this article for more) apart from a handful of trailblazers – like Lloyds Banking Group.
Its group sustainable business director, Fiona Cannon OBE, is leading the charge on raising awareness of domestic abuse and, increasingly, economic abuse. To her, it’s an absolute no-brainer that employers need to act to protect employees’ (and customers’) wellbeing on this front.
65,000 employees likely to be experiencing this abuse
As she says, at any one time, several of its 30 million customers and 65,000 employees are likely to be experiencing domestic abuse, and 95% of victims report that economic abuse is part their experience. Research also shows that victims of economic abuse are more likely to tell their bank than a domestic abuse service.
“Domestic abuse and economic abuse sit at the heart of our wellbeing strategy, which centres on healthy bodies, minds and finances,” says Cannon. “The role that employers play is really important – the workplace may be the safest place for victims to be. Often it’s government and charities that debate this issue but employers also have a strong role to play in this conversation. Think about how many people employers can access and impact and, potentially, save lives.”
A taboo subject which takes time to raise
The understanding of the complex issue of abuse has not happened overnight, or been integrated into Lloyd’s wellbeing strategy overnight; the bank has worked hard to raise awareness over a number of years. Initially the focus was on domestic abuse, raising awareness of alarming statistics such as the fact that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men experience domestic abuse, defining exactly what this type of abuse means and looks like, and how it can be potentially spotted.
“It’s a very taboo subject. But, actually, the minute you start talking about it, you start to reduce the stigma and some myths are addressed; like domestic abuse only happens to certain people and not others. It can happen to any of us at any time in our lives,” she adds.
The power of telling stories of employee abuse
A key component of this awareness-raising was that Lloyds supported a number of very senior women executives, who had experienced domestic abuse, to talk about their experiences internally. That then gave others a license to open up about it. This led then to webinars and raising employee confidence about knowing what it is and how to spot it and call it out.
It’s only after Lloyds embedded a better understanding of domestic abuse that its attention has been turned to economic abuse specifically. Recognising that economic abuse is an emerging area of research and learning, Lloyds has leant heavily on specialist charities for support. Cannon says:
“Lloyds is obviously not an expert on domestic or economic abuse, and we would never proport to be, and we recognise that we need to step very carefully. That’s why we’ve partnered charities like Surviving Economic Abuse (SEA).”
Starting the conversation…
SEA has delivered seminars to get the conversation going internally. As often happens with economic abuse, people often don’t realise it is happening to them, or others, but can recognise it when the tell-tale signs are pointed out.
“We find that when they attend our economic abuse awareness training, employers soon realise that they are in an important position to recognise the signs and offer ways of enhancing their employee’s economic safety,” says a spokeswoman for SEA. “They are well placed to respond to the short and long-term impacts of economic abuse, such as employability, criminal record disclosures, wages, rights and entitlements, maternity leave.”
Practical steps employers can take
Some practical steps that Lloyds has taken so far to address economic abuse include:
- Working with other charities in addition to SEA, such as Safe Lives and Tender, as well as the Employer’s Initiative against Domestic Abuse
- Launching an Emergency Assistance Programme covering the cost of emergency hotel accommodation and one to one support for an employee and their children
- Seconding a specialist from SEA to help evolve how the bank supports employees and customers
For more practical inspiration and tips from Lloyds and other employers, watch this space for a forthcoming feature about what to do to address economic abuse.
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