The domestic violence statistics in Australia are chilling. One in four Australian women has experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse by a current or former partner.1&2 More than half of those women have children in their care.3 Domestic or family violence against women is the single largest driver of homelessness for women4 and contributes to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor.5
Are you aware of your employment obligations towards victims of domestic and family violence?
There is legislation which requires employers to create a safe workplace environment that is free from violence, discrimination and harassment.6 This should include victims of domestic and family violence.
“Domestic and family violence is a workplace issue. Having domestic/family violence as a new protected attribute in anti-discrimination legislation can provide another avenue of protection for victims and survivors who experience discrimination, as well as lead to improved measures for addressing domestic/family violence.”
~ Elizabeth Broderick
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
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.
[Update: From 1 August 2018, modern awards will be varied to give employees access to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year. For more details, click here.]
There are a range of actions that employers should consider in order to create a safe and supportive workplace. These positive actions include:
Acknowledging domestic and family violence as a workplace issue
Establishing clear Domestic Violence Policies and Procedures
Making provisions for leave or flexible work arrangements
Providing an Employee Assistance Program with safety planning
Providing external resources and referrals for additional specialised support
Regularly reviewing your anti-discrimination processes
If you require prompt confidential support for domestic violence or sexual assault, the national 24 hour hotline is 1800-RESPECT.
Is it time to review your workplace anti-discrimination processes?
At WorkPlacePLUS, we can assist in developing a Domestic Violence/Discrimination Policy or provide HR support and change management services to mitigate potential risks. Our experienced consultants can assist you in providing a safe work environment that is free from violence, discrimination and harassment.
For more information, please contact us today.
WorkPlacePLUS is “Preferred National Provider” for Speech Pathology Australia.
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).