Domestic Violence: What Can Your Workplace Do?

Workplaces can play a big part in helping people living with domestic violence remain safe

July 19 2017


Domestic violence (DV) affects 470,309 Australian households each year1.  The personal distress of  DV is hardly captured by figures indicating 89 deaths in 2008-10; and 6,500 hospital admissions in 2013-142.  Without including pain, suffering and premature death, domestic violence was estimated to cost our community $4.2 billion in 2002-3 and is predicted to cost $8.1 billion in 20223.  

Three percent of this cost ($456 million) is shouldered by organisations. Time off work to attend court, hospitals and accommodation issues are a small part of the costs. Some victims leave their workplaces due to DV, which can add to workplace costs of recruitment and retraining. 

Business can also be affected by perpetrators appearing at the victim’s workplace to abuse or to force them to leave their jobs, thus increasing their dependence on their abuser5.

Keeping Employees Safe

Workplaces have a duty of care to ensure that all employees are safe at work. There are practical steps organisations can take to keep victims of domestic violence safe while they are at work:

  • Keep contact information private (e.g. email, phone, internet profile)
  • Make adjustments to time or work location for the safety of victims
  • Provide support from security personnel or colleagues (escorts)
  • Follow procedure: lock doors, enforce authorised & restricted access
  • Ensure employees who have disclosed DV are not discriminated against

Providing Support

Victims of domestic violence can be supported in many ways5.  Their safety is the most important consideration; just disclosing they are the victim of DV can increase their risk.

  • Discuss their short and long term safety needs and requirements
  • Develop a safety plan
  • Communicate regularly and check in with the affected employee
  • Respect privacy and confidentiality
  • Ensure employees are aware of support resources such as EAP; 1800Respect; Police; on site security; DV leave

Addressing Perpetrators' Behaviour 

Workplaces can also address perpetrators’ behaviour6:

  • Encourage all employees to report inappropriate behaviour
  • Prescribe appropriate workplace behaviour and have a Code of Conduct
  • Provide information for perpetrators to get help
  • Be aware perpetrators tend to:
    • minimise responsibility for their violence,
    • blame the victim or external factors and
    • greatly under-report their use of violence.
  • Perpetrators are skilled at convincing themselves and others they are not responsible. They may invite you to collude with their attitudes and beliefs.
If you or someone you know is affected by domestic violence you can contact your EAP to explore your options on 1800 629 277 or support@maxsolutions.com.au

 References:
  1. PWC - A High Price to Pay
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare - DV leading cause of hospitalised assault
  3. Department of Social Services - The Cost of Violence
  4. Australian Human Rights Commission - Domestic and Family Violence
  5. Male Champions of Change - Playing our Part
  6. Royal Australian College of GPs - Identifying and responding to men who use violence in their intimate relationships

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