Workplaces need to prepare for victims of domestic abuse
Economic considerations are one of the determining factors in whether a woman will leave or return to an abusive relationship, making it crucial for companies to develop policies in order to support staff experiencing domestic violence with paid employment.
Despite the common belief domestic violence is a private issue, the costs to the community suggest otherwise, with a 2015 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimating that violence against women costs $21.7 billion a year, with victims bearing the brunt of this cost.
With 17 per cent of women and 5.3 per cent of men aged 18 years and over having experienced violence by a partner since the age of 15, we encourage companies to actively prepare and develop domestic violence policies to ensure all employees receive the support they need and are able to maintain paid employment.
As workplaces and society become more aware of mental health issues and domestic violence in our communities, workplaces need to prepare themselves for managing employees with either mental health concerns or who are experiencing domestic violence. The aim of developing a domestic violence policy and awareness plan is to commit to assisting employees, so they can continue to engage with their work and their colleagues while accessing the support they need.
Domestic violence is a complex issue and comes in many different forms. It includes physical violence as well as emotional, sexual, financial, social and spiritual abuses. It can occur in all households, irrespective of age, culture or socio-economic background. For companies looking to manage employees facing these issues, it can be daunting, especially for human resource professionals who have not met these challenges previously. Work plays a key role in assisting individuals to maintain financial security, a sense of identity and self-esteem, structure and crucial social connections when other parts of life appear chaotic.
Many organisations are developing or considering a domestic violence policy or becoming a White Ribbon accredited organisation. It’s important to provide awareness and education on managing domestic violence as most managers want to help, but don’t always know the right thing to say.
Here are some key strategies to help workplace managers develop domestic violence policies and procedures.
For human resources professionals, crisis support should incorporate the following:
- Provision for access to special leave arrangements to attend medical, counselling and legal appointments. Crisis management may also involve providing flexible work hours, addressing workflow and work scheduling within teams, so individuals can continue to fulfil their roles.
- Awareness of domestic violence means understanding that each person’s situation is different and it is important not to judge.
- It is a process which the individual needs to work through to consider all the aspects of their life, such as children, living arrangements and finances.
For managers, the following tips are suggestions on managing a domestic violence situation: • Gather information from the employee by listening to their needs and not the content of the story.
- Remain calm and be attentive towards the employee by managing emotional reactions to what is being heard.
- Do not tell the person what to do.
- Determine if there is any immediate risk and if action is needed to keep the employee safe.
- Adhere to confidentiality policies, with risk issues requiring management consultation.
- If further information or support is required, encourage the invividual to contact the 24-hour Domestic Violence Line on 1800 65 64 63.
- Accessing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be a valuable part of supporting employees in the crisis stage. AccessEAP offers psychological, financial and legal services to support staff as they go through a difficult time. It is available for anyone involved in domestic violence, whether they are victims, perpetrators or those who may not be directly affected, but are exposed in some way to the domestic violence.
- Be mindful and respectful of the individual’s personal circumstances and remember it can take time.
Longer term support may involve human resources or management developing a return-to-work plan to support an employee’s meaningful engagement with their role, streamlining administrative functions, such as payroll procedures or offering access to other financial plans, and implementing flexible work arrangements.