“I Don’t Know What to Say” – Dealing with Workplace Taboos

“I Don’t Know What to Say” – Dealing with Workplace Taboos

Early Bird ends this Friday 27 May at 5pm!

Handling sensitive conversations and introducing a domestic violence policy were two of the most talked about sessions from the 2021 Annual Review of Employment Law. 

These thought-provoking sessions struck a chord with attendees, highlighting the importance of these once taboo subjects being centre stage for any modern workplace. With this in mind we bring you “I Don’t Know What to Say” – Dealing with Workplace Taboos, which provides you with information and practical guidance on how to carry out sensitive conversations in your organisation and how to introduce the relevant policies and procedures so that employees feel supported through difficult personal experiences. 

This event will also include guidance on the recently introduced Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022 and the Domestic Abuse (Safe Leave) Bill 2022 (awaiting Royal Assent) as well as case law developments for employers in dealing with women’s health and wellbeing, essential for recruiting and retaining top talent in your organisation.

Why is this event important for YOU?

NI is the first jurisdiction in the UK to introduce a right to paid time off in relation to domestic abuse.  The PSNI responds to a domestic abuse call every 17 minutes. That works out about 600 a week, or 30,000+ per annum. All employers in Northern Ireland will have staff touched by this issue, whether they are the victim, perpetrator or collateral damage.

In addition, over the past 40 years, the UK has seen an almost continual rise in the proportion of women in employment. The employment rate among women of is up from 57% in 1975 to 72% in December 2021 – employers must recognise that women now make up a large proportion of the workforce and to recruit and retain top talent, once taboo “women’s issues” need to be front, centre and dealt with in a confident and sensitive manner. Similarly, we all go through grief at some time in our lives, which means there is a pretty good chance that you will have to have a conversation with your colleagues about their grieving process or yours. These conversations are better described as necessary, rather than difficult, and, handled well, can be positive for both parties.

In this highly competitive recruitment environment – if you don’t learn to deal with these issues effectively, your competitors will and, by extension, they’ll snap up the best talent!

By the end of this course attendees will:

  • Understand what domestic abuse is
  • Recognise the signs of domestic abuse
  • Confidentially deal with and support colleagues and staff who you suspect are victims of domestic abuse
  • Successfully understand how to implement a domestic violence policy in your organisation
  • Understand the need to sensitively tackle formerly taboo subjects such as fertility issues and menopause to recruit and retain the best staff
  • Understand your obligations under the new Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022.
  • Confidentially deal with challenging emotions and difficult conversations

What will be covered?

  • Domestic Abuse Safe Leave Bill 2022 – an over-view by the driving force behind the Bill, Rachel Woods MLA
  • Spotting the Signs of Domestic Abuse – expert guidance provided by Victim Support NI
  • Implementing A Domestic Abuse Policy
  • Women’s Health and the Workplace: Lessons from Case Law
  • Compassionate Leave
  • I Don’t Know What To Say: Communication Skills For HR And Line Managers

Additional Learning Aids

In addition to attending the live sessions with our experts, attendees will have exclusive access to Legal Island’s Bereavement in the Workplace eLearning course which comes as an added feature and benefit to those attending on the day. Attendees will also benefit from a live webinar which will go into detail on what the new Domestic Abuse Bill 2022 means for employers once it is published.

It is estimated that 1 in 10 employees are affected by a bereavement at any point in time in the workplace. We still find it one of the most difficult subjects to talk about, even though it’s something we all go through at some time in our lives. When someone in our workplace is grieving, it’s very common to not know what to say or to worry about saying the wrong thing.  But if we don’t say anything, our colleagues might think we don’t care, and they might feel ignored or isolated.

About Legal Island’s Bereavement in the Workplace eLearning course

It’s important to have open conversations about bereavement in the workplace and this course is designed to help you understand the effects of grief and offer practical tips on how to help your colleagues when they experience a loss.

By the end of this course, you will understand:

+ The impact of bereavement

+ How to support your colleagues

When & Where?

This event will take place online on the Hopin platform between 9:10am and 4:00pm on Thursday 9 June 2022.


Standard rate: £260 +VAT
Early bird rate: £220 +VAT (deadline Friday 27 May 2022 at 5pm)

Save £20 if you pay by card when booking online.

In association with:

Carson McDowell   CO3



Welcome & Introduction – Legal Island

Valerie McConville, Chief Executive, CO3 – Chief Officers 3rd Sector


Domestic Abuse Safe Leave Bill 2022

Rachel Woods, former MLA was the driving force behind the Domestic Abuse (Safe Leave) Bill, which introduces a right for victims of domestic abuse to have 10 days paid leave per year off from work to make any necessary arrangements and provides for protection of their employment rights while absent.  In this session Rachel outlines why she felt the Bill was necessary, the views of stakeholders and the key provisions of the Bill including how domestic abuse is defined within the legislation.




Spotting the Signs of Domestic Abuse

In this session Louise Kennedy, Policy & Communications Manager, Victim Support NI, outlines what domestic abuse is; how you can spot the signs among your workforce and considers how employers can support employees, including those in the LGBT+ community whose issues with domestic abuse have remained hidden and under-reported. Louise also sets out case study examples where Victim Support NI has worked with employers to suggest support strategies for employees.




Refreshment Break


Implementing A Domestic Abuse Policy

Samantha Whann, Senior HR Manager, Belfast HSCT and Orla Barron, Equality and Corporate Planning Lead, Belfast HSCT, outline their journey towards implementing a Workplace Domestic Violence Policy including how to deal with issues when they arise.




Women’s Health and the Workplace: Lessons from Case Law

Over the past 40 years, the UK has seen an almost continual rise in the proportion of women in employment. The employment rate among women of is up from 57% in 1975 to 72% in December 2021.  As a result, many issues that would have been taboo in earlier years are now essential for successful businesses to recruit and retain female talent.  In this session Rachel Penny, Parter, Carson McDowell Solicitors outlines case law developments in menopause, fertility, post-natal depression, etc and in the absence of any legislation, how modern organisations should tackle these once taboo issues.






Compassionate Leave

The Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2022 introduce a right for employees to have up to 2 weeks leave from (day 1 of employment) in the event of the death of a child.  In this session Sarah Cochrane, Senior Associate, Carson McDowell Solicitors discusses how the new right fits in with existing and contractual rights, such as time off for dependants and compassionate leave and what constitutes good practice in dealing with bereavements in the workplace. 




Comfort Break


I Don’t Know What To Say: Communication Skills For HR And Line Managers

You’ve received a lot of information today and these are not easy topics to raise with individuals. When do you raise them? How might you start a conversation with a bereaved parent or a colleague who is the victim of domestic abuse?

Effective communication is important in all workplaces but is critical when dealing with recently bereaved staff and colleagues. In this session Aislinn Delaney, Family Support Social Worker at NI Hospice provides top tips for dealing with challenging emotions and difficult conversations.




Event Close


This event was created based on feedback from our 2021 Annual Review of Employment Law, you can view some of the comments below:

"Excellent just doesn't seem to be enough. I found this whole session very powerful and all the ladies involved in this session have my total admiration for being so open and honest. More discussion is need around this very emotive topic."
Wendy Halligan, Employment Relations Advisor, Labour Relations Agency

"Really helpful session for employers and HR managers. Really insightful to hear personal stories from Jayne and Olga."
Stephen Patton, HR & CR Manager, George Best Belfast City Airport

"Can't say enough about the bravery of these presenters and how they were able to bring across the issues so clearly. Challenging and informative session."
Gail Taylor, Employment Law Adviser, Mark Mason Employment Law

"Fantastic session. Thanks to Olga and Jayne for being so open about their personal experiences, that would have been extremely difficult to do so I have a lot of admiration for both of you."
Ryan Brown, HR Business Partner, Sensata Technologies

"Inspiring, brave & well needed discussion."
Nicole Rooney, Junior People & Culture Officer, S&W Wholesale

"Honest and raw conversations showing true impact of grief and how the right support is key."
Elaine Di Lucia, HR Manager, Victim Support NI

"The personal sharing was very brave and helped us to understand no one fits all when trying to handles these very sensitive situations but did give us so good guidance on tools we could use."
Donna Elwood, HR Manager, WineFlair (Belfast) Ltd.


  • Valerie McConville
    Valerie McConville Chief Executive

    Valerie has a track record in senior leadership and people development in a variety of organisations. She holds an MBA from Queen's University and is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). She has worked in management & leadership training, business growth and membership development in her previous roles.

    An advocate of mental health & wellbeing she is a qualified yoga instructor and teaches a weekly class and she practises meditation & mindfulness.

    She supports a flexible & healthy work life balance and enjoys walking, a (leisurely) cycle and paddleboarding when the Northern Irish summer permits.

  • Rachel Woods
    Rachel Woods Former MLA
    Northern Ireland Assembly

    Rachel Woods is a Northern Irish politician who served the Green Party MLA for North Down from 2019 to 2022, having replaced the party's former leader, Steven Agnew.

    Woods served as a councillor for the Holywood and Clandeboye electoral area on Ards and North Down Borough Council from 2016 until her selection as an MLA in 2019.

    Woods passed many amendments to the Domestic Abuse Bill, including widening access to legal aid for victims of abuse and changes to the "child aggravator" clause providing for tougher custodial sentences where a child could be impacted by abuse, as well as additional reporting requirements.

    In 2022, her Safe Leave Bill passed the Assembly, making Northern Ireland the first region of the UK to provide 10 days paid leave to victims of domestic abuse. Upon passage, the Bill was said to be "a life saver for many people who are experiencing or have experienced domestic abuse."

  • Louise Kennedy
    Louise Kennedy Policy & Communications Manager
    Victim Support NI

    Louise Kennedy is Policy & Communications Manager at Victim Support NI. Victim Support NI is the lead charity providing support to victims and witnesses of all types of crime across Northern Ireland.

    Prior to joining Victim Support NI she was policy and information co-ordinator for Women's Aid.

  • Orla Barron
    Orla Barron Equality Lead and Corporate Planning
    Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

    Orla Barron is Equality and Corporate Planning Lead for Belfast Trust. She has worked in Health and Social Care for the last 21 years. She was responsible for introducing the domestic and sexual abuse support service for staff in 2008 and has been coordinating the service since then. She is a member of the Belfast Domestic and Sexual Violence Partnership and represented them on a joint working group with Department of Health, Department of Justice, Women’s Aid, Men’s Advisory Project, Rainbow Project, Unison, NIPSA and ICTU to produce guidance on Developing-a-Workplace-Policy-on-Domestic-and-Sexual-Violence.pdf (nibusinessinfo.co.uk) in 2018.

    She works closely with her colleagues in Human Resources and Trade Unions  and the support officers to ensure that the support service for staff is safe, effective and compassionate.  The Trust is keen to share its experience and resources to help ensure that other organisations can consider adopting a similar policy and support service and adapting it to their needs.

  • Samantha Whann
    Samantha Whann Senior HR Manager
    Belfast HSCT

    Samantha Whann is Senior HR Manager within Belfast Health & Social Care Trust. She is the Trust lead for Improving Working Lives, Attendance Management & Employment Equality.

    Samantha has a keen interest in all matters relating to improving working lives and the correlation with physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

    As a HR professional employed within NI’s largest health and social care Trust, Samantha is keen to share what has worked for the Trust and also, importantly, learn from other employers within NI and beyond to ensure best practice in supporting staff and their families.  

  • Rachel Penny
    Rachel Penny Partner
    Carson McDowell

    Rachel is a Partner in the firm's Employment Team. She is a graduate of Cambridge University and completed her Legal Practice Course at the College of Law in York.

    Rachel's experience straddles both contentious and non-contentious employment law for a wide range and size of clients. Rachel has particular expertise in advising on TUPE and other employment matters in corporate transactions and mergers, including public sector reorganisations. 

  • Sarah Cochrane
    Sarah Cochrane Associate
    Carson McDowell

    Sarah Cochrane joined the Employment Team at Carson McDowell in 2012. Sarah attained a degree in law (LLB Honours) from Queens University in 2005 before embarking on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) at the College of Law in Chester later that year. Sarah trained with DAC Beachcroft LLP in Manchester and qualified as a solicitor into the Employment & PensionsTeam in 2009.

  • Aislinn Delaney
    Aislinn Delaney Family Support Social Worker
    Northern Ireland Hospice

    Aislinn Delaney is the Senior Social Work Practitioner in the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, supporting babies, children and young people and their families, who have life limiting or life threatening conditions. Aislinn has been a social worker for 13 years, specialising in palliative care for the past 5.

Early bird offer

Save up to £40

Event details


9:10am - 4:00pm


09 June 2022


Online - Hopin


Standard rate: £260 +VAT
Early bird rate: £220 +VAT (deadline Friday 27 May 2022 at 5pm)