In Australia, approximately one woman is killed by her current or former partner every week, and for men, every month. (1)
Since the age of 15, 1 in 3 women have experienced physical abuse, 1 in 5 women have experienced sexual abuse and 1 in 16 men have experienced physical and or sexual violence from a cohabiting partner. (2)
If there was any question as to whether domestic violence was a workplace issue, these shocking statistics are the answer. With domestic and family violence increasing in Australia during COVID-19 and with many employees finding themselves working from home under new flexible work arrangements, organisations and managers must be aware of the increased risk to their employees. The severity and life-altering impacts of domestic and family violence should have every employer standing to attention, ensuring their workplace culture and policies are supportive and clear.
Organisations contribute hugely to social change, and when faced with the issue of domestic and family violence, they can be a major part of the solution Australia needs. Without a doubt, Australian workplaces have an obligation to provide a safe, supportive work environment for all employees and to have policies in place to assist their people if they are experiencing violence.
What are the best practice standards to follow?
To proactively address family and domestic violence, organisations need to demonstrate their support and have a workplace culture and policies that clearly and boldly demonstrate this.
There are best practice standards to be an Employer of Choice for workplaces responding to Family and Domestic Violence – these mean that an employee impacted by violence will have the highest level of care, support and assistance at their workplace.
The best practice standards include:
A Family and Domestic Violence Policy Plan that clearly outlines –
- Safety for employees who disclose violence
- Steps for protection of an employee experiencing violence
- Procedures where an employee is alleged to have perpetrated violence and protocols for response when violence occurs in the workplace
- Clear consequences for perpetrators of violence and zero tolerance of threats and violence in the workplace
A suite of related policies – the Family and Domestic Violence Policy should sit alongside the organisation’s other policies like diversity and inclusion, bullying and harassment, parental leave, managing disclosures and sexual harassment policy.
Policy review and implementation processes – every staff member needs to be aware of the policies in place and know the steps they can take to get support should they need it. Access to these policies and the steps required should be clearly outlined and as easy to follow as possible.
Workplace support policies – support should be in place for instances of family and domestic violence and include:
- Periods of paid and unpaid leave (10+ days paid)
- Options for flexible working; leave to attend appointments (housing, legal, counselling, etc.).
- Contact information for support services
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services that are skilled to support instances of family and domestic violence
- Family counselling services
- Access to legal advice services
Culture of respect towards all genders – a workplace that clearly respects all employees, regardless of gender, sex, or other factors, is one where employees will feel confident and safe enough to ask for support. Further to this, when organisations have a firm stance against violence against women, or online harassment, and ensure staff are familiar with that stance, employees can feel more secure in the response of their organisation should they seek support.
Clear accountability at CEO/HR/Line Management levels – organisation leaders should know their roles and responsibilities pertaining to Family and Domestic Violence, and regular open dialogue will ensure that all staff know their role and the importance of it.
Workplace programs – special workplace programs like the White Ribbon Australia Workplace Accreditation engages the entire organisation for commitment to eliminate gendered violence. Publicly aligning an organization with a workplace program like White Ribbon can help employees feel more comfortable seeking help. (checking we want to mention White Ribbon)?
HR surveys – cultural attitudes within the workplace can have a defining impact on how an employee might feel asking for help, and so it’s imperative that the workplace culture is one of support. Pre- and post- survey work when developing policies can assist in ensuring the work environment is conducive to supporting those impacted.
Training and support – ensure managers and those responsible for policy implementation are trained and supported in their role, including for privacy and confidentiality requirements. Training should include how to manage perpetrators and appropriate steps to take in violence-related situations.
Financial support – According to the Diversity Council of Australia, “Economic security is the single most important factor in whether a victim of domestic violence is able to withdraw from a dangerous situation.” An increasing number of organisations are providing access to paid domestic violence leave for employees. In 2019-20, around one-third (35.5%) of organisations provided this, up from just 12.1% in 2015-16.
Counselling – even if a domestic violence situated has ended, most impacted will still find themselves in need of support. and Counselling can provide a safe outlet for survivors to move forward.
Legal advice services – ensure that all employees are aware of the support and referral pathways that are available to them for legal advice.
When employees are affected by domestic violence in their personal life, it indisputably impacts their professional life. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately 55-70 percent of women who have experienced domestic violence, or who are currently experiencing it, are in the workforce. This isn’t an issue that can be ignored – organisations must provide a culture and workplace of support and understanding to their employees, and in doing so will contribute significantly to positive change for their employees and for Australian society.
“Family Friendly Workplaces support workplaces to understand the importance of their role in making a difference and even saving a life.” ~ Delia Donovan, CEO, DV NSW.
For more information on developing a best practice Domestic and Family Violence Policy in your workplace, here are some guides:
- Domestic Violence NSW – Good Practice Guidelines
- The Queensland Government guide and model policy template
- South Australia Health and Queensland Health – two comprehensive DFV workplace policies
- DFV policy and accompanying procedures from James Cook University.
- The Champions of Change Coalition provides a specific resource for developing a workplace policy for responding to employees who use or may use DFV.
To speak with a Family Friendly Workplaces consultant for support in developing your Domestic and Family Violence policy please contact us at [email protected]
1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) – Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia: continuing the national story 2019
2 Our Watch – Quick Facts
3 Workplace Gender Equality Agency – Take Action, Family and Domestic Violence