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Why is Domestic Violence a Workplace Issue?

In Australia, approximately one woman is killed by her current or former partner every week, often after a history of domestic and family violence, as reported by recorded statistics.

Domestic violence is all of this, which is why it is not always so blatantly obvious as a bruised face, and which is why even those living through it may not immediately recognise it for what it is. They will suffer the abuse in silence, they will report to work in the mornings with concealed bruises and bright smiles, and they will dread having to go back home to the floors made of eggshells and the walls that echo rage.

They may not have a name to put to what they are going through, and even if they did, they may have no one to turn to. Often, abusers focus on isolating their victims from friends and family.

That is where the workplace comes in.

This blog post will explain the role of the workplace in domestic violence cases, and the hows and whys and whats of the workplace’s intervention and involvement, leading to a productive workplace that’s a safe space and refuge for all employees.

Why is Domestic Violence a Workplace Issue?

The Fair Work Act defines domestic violence as violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s close relative that:

  • seeks to coerce or control the employee
  • causes them harm or fear.

 

People across all demographics experience domestic violence. Of this, statistics in Australia show that between 55% and 70% are currently in the workforce, which, as a consequence, would result in significant loss to the general productivity of workplaces. In Australia, nearly 50% of women who disclosed that they had experienced domestic and family violence reported that it affected their capacity to get to work (mostly because of physical injury or because they had been restrained). Further, violence against women and their children has been estimated to cost Australia $22 billion annually. Of this amount, $1.9 billion is attributed directly to businesses and productivity (as reported by an article published by the Champions of Change Coalition).

 

This is evidence of how the effects of domestic violence are not restricted to the place in which it is carried out. The impact of domestic and family violence can affect the wellbeing and performance of people in the workplace, and can result in higher levels of workplace stress, the use of personal/sick leave and staff turnover. In some cases, employees experience the direct impact of domestic and family violence in their workplace in the form of threatening phone calls, emails and confrontation by the perpetrator at a workplace address.

 

This is what makes domestic violence a workplace issue, and this is why it is necessary for businesses to have proactive conversations on domestic violence.

Domestic and Family Violence Awareness in the Workplace
Cultivate the Upstander Generation

Many victims of domestic violence may not be able to recognise themselves as being in a relationship that is violent or abusive. Abusers may use manipulative tactics to sweep their victims’ concerns and fears under the rug, to gaslight them into believing that nothing is wrong.

 

Workplaces have an opportunity to raise awareness of what constitutes a healthy and respectful relationship for those experiencing abuse in addition to educating those who are abusive. As microcosms of broader society, workplaces play a very important role in raising awareness, in challenging sexist views, and in punishing discriminatory behaviour.

 

Having proactive conversations surrounding domestic and family violence not only help raise awareness of this issue, but also lets victims know that they will be safe and supported in their current workplace environment. The security they gain from this knowledge could empower them to leave their abusive relationships and to seek help, healing, and legal action against the perpetrator.



Obligations of the Workplace in Domestic Violence Cases

Several legal supports including the Sex Discrimination Act, the Disability Discrimination Act, and the Fair Work Act exist to empower victims of Domestic and Family Violence, in the workplace. Organisations are legally obligated to protect their employees from family and domestic violence in the workplace. Under the Fair Work Act, employees who are victims of Domestic and Family Violence can:

  • request flexible working arrangements
  • access unpaid Domestic and Family Violence leave
  • access paid or unpaid personal/ carers leave in some circumstances.

According to this Act, all employees experiencing family and domestic violence can access 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave each year. This includes full-time, part-time and casual employees.

 

While these legal entitlements can serve to empower victims of domestic and family violence to seek help and support against their perpetrator, there is always the opportunity to do more. Businesses can offer additional supports and create more policies that reflect their commitment to ensuring their employees’ wellbeing.

 

These supports include staff training, leadership commitment and role modelling, workplace safety and security measures, free and confidential counselling services, and referral pathways to relevant organisations. 

 

These additional supports are not just a reflection of the business’ commitment to upholding its productivity, but also of the employers’ level of investment in the wellbeing of their employees. These supports and ensuring legal obligations are met, are indicative of a healthy workplace with Upstander Culture at the core of its creation and continuation. Educating employees on their rights and reiterating that the workplace is a safe space and refuge for all employees is in keeping with the basic tenets of what it means to be an Upstander.

 

To be an Upstander is to help create workplaces where everyone can thrive, to help give everyone the opportunity and the strength to be able to build homes without raised voices, with floors that are not made out of eggshells.

For more information on how to nurture and reset your workplace culture check out www.jesshickman.com

 

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