Centrica has introduced domestic abuse guidelines to create a safe and respectful working environment and support colleagues' health and well-being. The company has also adopted Online Safe Spaces, so customers experiencing or impacted by domestic abuse can access specialist support and information.
The guidelines were spearheaded by Centrica Women's Network, who, after seeing the number of domestic abuse cases rise significantly during the lockdown, recognised this serious issue would also be affecting colleagues, many of whom could be suffering in silence.
According to the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales[i], an estimated 5.5 per cent of adults (2.3 million people) experienced domestic abuse in the last year. Centrica estimates that around 1,000 colleagues and about 374,000 customers could be in the same position based on the national picture.
"Domestic abuse is a societal issue and, therefore, a business issue, and we all have a role to play in supporting and caring for our colleagues and customers. Sadly, domestic abuse touches many people's lives either directly or through friends, family or colleagues, and in many instances, dedicated support and interventions can be lifesaving. That’s why raising awareness of this issue, introducing domestic abuse guidelines and creating Online Safe Spaces is so important."
Chris O’Shea, Group Chief Executive, Centrica
The guidelines, developed in consultation with Hestia, a charity that aims to prevent domestic abuse, includes topics such as tackling assumptions about who may be impacted by domestic abuse; common signs that could be displayed by those who are experiencing domestic abuse; how to support remote workers and links to internal and external sources of help and training. The company is mindful that domestic abuse can affect everyone, that it is a complex issue and impacts communities in varying ways. So the guidelines are designed to be inclusive.
Crucially, the guidelines detail the different ways in which Centrica can support colleagues to be safe from abuse whilst at work, including changing work telephone numbers, email addresses and providing appropriate flexible working arrangements. The company has also adopted ‘Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately)’, a codeword scheme, pronounced Annie, developed to provide those experiencing domestic abuse quick access to support. If a colleague ever needs a place of safety or urgent assistance, they can visit any open Centrica office in the UK and Ireland and ask for ANI.
Centrica is also providing help to customers and has added the Online Safe Spaces logo to its British Gas and Hivehome websites, enabling customers experiencing domestic abuse to access specialist support and information by clicking on the Safe Spaces logo on the homepage. The Safe Spaces webpage does not appear on the internet browsing history and has a quick exit function.
Managers and HR teams at Centrica can call Hestia’s Respond to Abuse helpline, so they can better support colleagues affected by domestic abuse.
"Domestic abuse isn't something that affects only women; it can affect everyone. We’ve seen the pandemic has exacerbated the number of domestic abuse incidents, and that’s why we are proud that the company is playing an active role to support both customers and colleagues. If we can help just one person to get the support they need, that’s one less person living in fear."
Joanne Rose, Co-chair of Centrica Women’s Network
"Businesses have a unique role to play in breaking the silence around domestic abuse and ensuring victims can access the help and support they need. Lockdown restrictions due to Covid-19 have provided an opportunity for businesses to step up their response to domestic abuse for their staff and customers through digital platforms. With the launch of Online Safe Spaces, we are delighted to work with Centrica to facilitate Online Safe Spaces to provide a vital lifeline to victims of domestic abuse."
Sue Harper, Head of Domestic Abuse Prevention, Hestia
Centrica has a holistic approach to support colleagues' health and well-being, providing proactive and reactive support through a range of internal tools, resources and benefits, including dedicated well-being programmes: MyCare is a confidential psychological support service, and Unmind is a mental health platform that empowers colleagues to engage, measure and understand their mental well-being proactively. The company also provides access to Mental Health First Aiders.
Centrica is a leading energy services and solutions provider founded on a 200-year heritage of serving people. We are the UK's biggest retailer of zero carbon electricity, serving around 10 million customers across the UK, Ireland and Continental Europe through brands such as British Gas, supported by around 9,000 highly trained engineers and technicians. Centrica's purpose of helping customers live sustainably, simply and affordably drives our strategy and our People and Planet Plan.
Hestia is one of the largest providers of domestic abuse refuges in London and the South East and is the main organisation supporting victims of modern slavery in the capital. It is the home of domestic abuse and sexual violence campaign UK SAYS NO MORE and developed the Bright Sky domestic abuse app in partnership with Vodafone. This year, it celebrates 50 years of providing support to those in crisis by providing safehouses, refuge accommodation and support.
Safe Spaces was developed as an initiative of the UK SAYS NO MORE campaign in response to the challenges faced by victims of domestic abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown and their inability to access specialist support services. It was first launched in partnership with Boots and is now available in over 5,600 pharmacies across the UK, including major brands such as Superdrug, Morrisons and Well and local independent pharmacists. Many pharmacy Safe Spaces also now offer the Government’s Ask for ANI codeword as a companion to Safe Spaces.
Hestia’s Safe Spaces initiative was awarded over £652,000 by Postcode Innovation Trust, a grant making trust funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Contact the Everyone’s Business Advice Line:
If you are an employer looking to respond effectively to a disclosure of domestic abuse from an employee, or looking for other advice and guidance around supporting employees affected by domestic abuse, contact the Respond to Abuse Advice Line on 07770480437 or 0203 8793695 or via email Adviceline.EB@hestia.org between 9am-5pm Monday to Friday for support.
 The Crime Survey for England and Wales year ending March 2020.
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