Like bullying and mental health in recent years, domestic and family violence is being increasingly acknowledged and addressed by our governments, the media, and within our communities.
Domestic violence in Australia
Approximately 1.4 million Australian women are living (or have lived) in an abusive relationship. Of these women, over half are in the paid workforce. And perpetrators are, too. Men can also be victims of violence and abuse.
So chances are someone in your workplace is affected.
How domestic violence is a workplace issue
Domestic and family violence can affect a person’s attendance, performance, concentration and productivity. It can make it difficult for them to get to work, and can mean they have to take time off work: to deal with legal matters, doctors or counselling appointments for themselves or their children.
This violence may also extend into the workplace, with the perpetrator harassing the victim with phone calls or emails, or entering their workplace.
This risk is increased if the victim works in an industry with public access, such as the retail, hospitality or health sectors.
Perpetrators often use work phone, email and IT resources to carry out their abuse. They may also extend their abuse to your other workers and clients.
Domestic and family violence has a significant economic cost to Australia: around $13.6 billion each year.
How workplaces can make a difference
Economic factors are the most significant predictor of whether a woman stays or leaves an abusive relationship. Having a job provides financial independence that supports a woman’s choices.
An informed and supportive workplace can make someone feel safe to disclose their situation.
Safety planning for the workplace can protect them and their co-workers, and enable them to maintain their productivity and meaningful contribution to your business.
Workplaces can also ensure that a perpetrator’s use of work resources for their abuse is not tolerated.
A few years ago there was stigma surrounding mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Now there is openness and support in many workplaces. Raising our awareness about the issues helps people get help.
Whatever you plan, always include the person experiencing the violence. You might consider:
- ensuring safe work access and parking: well-lit, close to the main entrance
- using an internal code word known to all staff that signals help is needed
- ensuring co-workers and workplace systems can protect the worker’s privacy
- adjusting the worker’s hours or place of work.
Manage emails, phone calls at the workplace
If it doesn’t prevent the worker from performing their duties, consider removing their name or phone number from public information.
Notify the police and workplace security immediately of any emails or phone calls that breach a restraining order.
Ask the person experiencing the violence to keep a record of emails and phone calls. This can be used as evidence to help obtain a restraining order or prove an existing order has been breached.
Resources for people affected by domestic violence
1800Respect (external link): the national sexual assault, domestic family violence counselling service
Engender Equality (external link): a Hobart-based not-for-profit that provides specialist counselling services for women who are currently experiencing or have experienced family and domestic violence
One in Three (external link): for male victims of domestic violence