AccessEAP blog

Workplaces must play a role in preventing domestic violence

Domestic violence is a common problem in Australia with one in six women having experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner. Violence against women is estimated to cost the Australian economy $21.7 billion a year. 94 per cent of employees agree that employers should take a leadership role in educating their workforce about respectful relationships between men and women. However, a National domestic violence and the workplace survey revealed that 48 per cent of respondents who had experienced domestic violence disclosed it to a manager and only 10 per cent found their response to be helpful. 

Workplaces have an important role to play in supporting women experiencing violence. Often, for these women, the workplace provides a sanctuary away from the abuser. The organisation has a duty of care and needs to have an action plan in place outlining how to handle domestic violence situations. With White Ribbon Day having just taken place (November 25th), it’s the perfect time to examine current policies and perhaps consider introducing a structured plan.

AccessEAP assists companies by providing White Ribbon approved training and by educating employees as part of a domestic violence action plan based around three elements; Recognise, Respond, Refer.

Recognise

When a woman is experiencing domestic violence, it is likely that her patterns of behaviour will change. Managers should remain connected to their team to be able to recognise any changes. Some behaviours to look out for may include;

  • Frequently arriving to work very early or very late

  • Frequent personal phone calls that leave the employee distressed

  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions

  • Not attending out of hours work functions or engaging socially with colleagues

  • Stress

  • Ill health and increased leave usage

  • Wanting to resign or relocate

Respond

If someone has taken the difficult step of sharing their experience of violence or abuse, it is vital to respond in an appropriate and supportive manner. Firstly, you should believe the person and listen without judging. Be supportive, encouraging, open and honest. There are also some practical considerations which will help make the person feel safer and more supported.

  • Screen their phone calls or install caller ID on their phone

  • Change their email address and remove their details from the organisation’s directories

  • Encourage the employee to alter their daily travel route

  • Arrange for priority parking close to the building entrance

  • Organise for them to be accompanied to and from their car

  • Alert key staff with full consent and ensure they are discreet at all times

  • Ensure employee’s workstation is not easily accessible for someone entering from outside

Refer

While provisions such as additional special leave, financial assistance and security measures will go a long way towards supporting women to remain in the workplace, other external supports may also be required. Referring employees to an expert domestic violence service can provide crisis counselling, information on crisis care facilities and refuges, information on domestic violence orders and court support and information on longer term counselling services.