Family and domestic violence (FDV) is a workplace issue. It may be affecting some of your employees.
In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDV statistics in Australia were chilling. One in four Australian women had experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse by a current or former partner.[1&2] More than half of those women had children in their care. FDV against women was the single largest driver of homelessness for women and contributed to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor.
Alarmingly, the lockdown and isolation conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic have created an escalation in FDV, with reports that FDV support service providers are struggling to meet the surge in requests for assistance. One of Australia's leading support groups said that two thirds of victims of violence or abuse from domestic partners reported an escalation of attacks, or were victimised for the first time, during COVID-19 lockdowns.
If you require prompt confidential support for domestic violence or sexual assault, the national 24 hour hotline is 1800-RESPECT.
It’s important for the workplace to be a safe space for staff who are victims of family violence to disclose and receive appropriate support.
Are you aware of your employer obligations?
There is legislation which requires employers to create a safe workplace environment that is free from violence, discrimination and harassment.
Under Work, Health & Safety (WHS) laws, employers have a duty to eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risks, they must be minimised so far as is reasonably practicable. This means proactively managing the risk of family and domestic violence happening at the workplace, which includes ensuring that staff are protected from harm when they are working from home or remotely from another location.
Victims of domestic and family violence often experience workplace discrimination as a result of taking time off work or temporarily having lower levels of productivity due to their experience of violence at home.
Employers need to be aware of the potential discrimination risks, including:
Denying leave or flexible work arrangements for an employee to attend matters as moving to a shelter or appearing in court,
Transferring, demoting or terminating employment of a victim of domestic violence due to a drop in performance or attendance.
The Fair Work Act provides minimum entitlements for employees, including minimum legal entitlements of employees experiencing FDV. All employees (including part-time and casual employees) are entitled to 5 days unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year.
Under national workplace laws, workers dealing with family and domestic violence can:
take unpaid family and domestic violence leave
request flexible working arrangements, and
take paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave, in certain circumstances.
It is important to note that some workplaces may also offer paid leave for workers experiencing family and domestic violence. Employers can provide more than the minimum entitlements under workplace policies, enterprise agreements and informally.
There are a range of actions that employers should consider in order to create a safe and supportive workplace. These positive actions include:
Monitoring and managing the workplace culture
Acknowledging FDV as a workplace issue and educating your staff
Establishing clear FDV policies and processes
Regularly reviewing your WHS and anti-discrimination processes
Implementing practical control measures for worker safety
Making provisions for leave or flexible work arrangements
Providing external resources and referrals for additional specialised support
WorkPlacePLUS provides services to assist employers in addressing FDV in the workplace. For more information, please contact us today.
1. Cox, P. (2015) Violence against women: Additional analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey 2012, Horizons Research Report, Issue 1, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), Sydney; and Woodlock, D., Healey, L., Howe, K., McGuire, M., Geddes, V. and Granek, S. (2014) Voices against violence paper one: Summary report and recommendations, Women with Disabilities Victoria, Office of the Public Advocate and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria. 2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2012.
3. National Crime Prevention (2001) Young people and domestic violence: National research on young people’s attitudes and experiences of domestic violence, Crime Prevention Branch, Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, Canberra; and Cox (2015)
4. 55% of women with children presenting to specialist homelessness services nominated escaping violence as their main reason for seeking help. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Specialist homeless services data collection 2011-12, Cat. No. HOU 267, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.
5. Based on Victorian figures from VicHealth (2004) The health costs of violence: Measuring the burden of disease caused by intimate partner violence, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne.
6. The Australian Human Rights Commission recommended that federal anti-discrimination legislation and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) prohibit discrimination on the ground of domestic and family violence: Consolidation of Commonwealth Discrimination Law – domestic and family violence, (2012); Post Implementation Review of the Fair Work Act 2009 (2012); Australian Law Reform Commission: Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws: Employment and Superannuation (2011).