December 19, 2020 - 278 views|
Amid rising domestic violence, employee assistance programs are more essential than ever as a confidential way of giving and getting help.
As the coronavirus pandemic wears on, remote work and learning is intended to keep us safe. For victims of domestic violence, however, it does anything but. Instead, working from home often keeps victims close to their abusers.
This dynamic makes employee assistance programs (EAP) more important than ever. But while EAPs offer referrals and counseling that can help staffers in abusive relationships get the support they need, the programs are typically underutilized. It’s time for all of us to help close the gap by spreading the word about EAP resources for victims of domestic violence.
A Pandemic Within a Pandemic
Reports of violence among intimate partners jumped during lockdown, with some cities seeing a dramatic rise in calls to helplines. Others reported a drop-off in calls, which led advocates to worry that regional quarantines had effectively trapped victims behind closed doors with abusers. Experts call the surge in abuse a pandemic within a pandemic. In the U.S., pre-pandemic reports estimate one in four women and one in 10 men experience intimate partner violence.
EAPs are an essential way for businesses to help. Offered by 97% of large companies and 75% of smaller businesses, the programs can make a difference in employees’ lives: The Journal of Health and Productivity found big gains in life satisfaction and work engagement among employees who had accessed their company’s EAP services.
Yet fewer than 10% of employees make use of them, and some research finds utilization dipping as low as 4%. Several factors contribute to the low rates. One is that employees may associate EAPs with mental health issues, which carry a stigma all their own. Another reason is fear of asking for help. Lack of awareness is also a factor: While 93% of HR professionals said their companies offer EAPs, nearly half of workers say their employer doesn’t offer one.
Looking Out for Each Other
Closing that awareness gap is especially vital for helping co-workers who may be in crisis. The topic of domestic violence can make us uncomfortable, but the pandemic has opened the door to conversations about everything from anxiety to vulnerability that, until now, have been taboo in the workplace.
Let’s start to address domestic violence more openly by raising awareness and spreading the word about how EAP programs can help co-workers at risk:
Let’s look out for one another, be kind and help colleagues obtain the support they need, when they need it.