More focus on equipping S'pore workplaces with support for victims of domestic violence

Bosses and co-workers may be able to spot signs of abuse in a colleague, and offer help and guidance to the victim, if they are trained and set up to do so.
Bosses and co-workers may be able to spot signs of abuse in a colleague, and offer help and guidance to the victim, if they are trained and set up to do so.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Bosses and co-workers may be able to spot signs of abuse in a colleague, and offer help and guidance to the victim, if they are trained and set up to do so.

Because of the hours spent at workplaces, the Government and its partners hope to make them another layer of touchpoints offering support for those who are affected by domestic violence, said Minister of State for Social and Family Development Sun Xueling.

Plans to do so were in the works before the Covid-19 pandemic derailed them, including organising lunchtime talks at offices and other outreach initiatives that had to be abandoned when people began working from home, said Ms Sun.

The ministry is currently working with organisations such as United Women Singapore (UWS) to run such initiatives at workplaces, she added.

UWS has been in touch with businesses to encourage them to take part in its GenSafe Workplace Programme, meant to support employees who may be victims of abuse. It hopes to reach out to 100 businesses here in 2021.

"We hope to give employers the option to understand that this is another aspect of employee welfare that they might want to look at," said UWS president Georgette Tan.

"Especially now when more are going back to the workplace again, albeit with split teams, the workplace can become an early and critical point of intervention, if staff are trained to observe, be able to recognise and respond, and then refer them to relevant help."

UWS plans to roll out a best-practice handbook by the last quarter of 2021 that could serve as a starting point for employers to create a safe environment for those experiencing domestic violence.

Organisations here involved in supporting victims of domestic violence agreed with the move to focus more on workplaces.

"One key place where people experiencing violence seek refuge and assistance is work," said Ms Shailey Hingorani, head of research and advocacy at Aware.

"We believe that companies should play a part in tackling domestic violence, especially as we also know that employees who face domestic violence will likely see their productivity levels and attendance levels drop, resulting in economic loss for their businesses."

She said employers can implement policies such as paid leave, flexible work arrangements, emergency accommodation and financial assistance for employees experiencing violence.

Trans Safe centre director Cherylene Aw said: "While a lot of focus now is on the social service sector, moving into workplaces and the private sector will help to provide a wider reach.

"It's not about asking employers to interfere and probe into individual lives, but just letting them know 'I'm concerned about you' and here are the resources available."