Employers across the UK have been urged to do more to tackle domestic abuse amid concerns about an increase in offenses during the lockdown.

The government has called on businesses to take steps to ensure they are spotting signs of abuse and helping their staff find the right support.

In an open letter to all UK employees, business minister Paul Scully today said employers had a duty to spot early signs of domestic abuse and outlined practical steps to raise awareness of the issue.

“For too long, a lack of awareness of and stigma around speaking about domestic abuse has stopped workplaces from putting in place the kind of help that survivors so desperately need,” he wrote.

“It was once taboo to talk about mental health, but now most workplaces have well-established policies in place. We want to see the same happen for domestic abuse, but more quickly and more effectively.”

The advice included fostering an inclusive environment in the workplace, ensuring employees are aware of the support available, and involving experts from specialist organizations such as Hestia. 

Businesses were also urged to ask employees what support they could offer and to make use of free services from groups such as Business in the Community and Public Health England, or to join the Employers Initiative on Domestic Abuse. 

The guidance follows a government review into workplace support for victims of domestic abuse, which was launched in June to examine how the employers could help tackle the crime.

The government will establish a working group including employers, representatives of domestic abuse victims, and trade unions to discuss further steps.

Last year’s initial coronavirus lockdown prompted a surge in domestic abuse, with charity Refuge reporting an 80 percent increase in calls to their domestic abuse hotline. 

The rollout of a fresh lockdown this month has sparked fears of a resurgence in instances of abuse, and domestic abuse commissioner Nicole Jacobs has called on the government to guarantee funding for charities as part of the Domestic Abuse Bill.

While the new national lockdown includes staying at home rules, these do not apply to people fleeing domestic abuse.