30/11/2021 - 14:00

Domestic violence support at work

30/11/2021 - 14:00


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November 25 marked the start of the ‘16 Days in WA’ campaign to raise awareness of gender-based family and domestic violence (FDV) against women.

Domestic violence support at work
Data shows more than a third of Australian companies offer paid domestic violence leave. Photo: David Henry

November 25 marked the start of the ‘16 Days in WA’ campaign to raise awareness of gender-based family and domestic violence (FDV) against women.

About one in six women (1.6 million nationally) and one in 16 men (548,000) have experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner since the age of 15.

Data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) shows that more than nine in 10 of Australia’s larger organisations have put measures in place to support employees who are experiencing family or domestic violence, and two-thirds have enacted formal FDV policies or strategies.

Many more organisations now offer vital support measures such as employee assistance programs, flexible working arrangements, unpaid leave, and confidentiality of disclosure.

More than a third of companies (35.5 per cent) offer paid domestic violence leave, while unpaid FDV leave is offered by almost a third of organisations.

Almost a quarter of companies offer financial support to employees experiencing family and domestic violence, with some also providing medical services and emergency accommodation assistance.

Clearly, such wide-ranging sources of support can be absolutely crucial to employees, and will have immense personal and societal benefits.

But what do they mean to employers?

Domestic violence is regrettably part of the lived experience for many employees, and measures to provide them with support are featuring ever more strongly in the suite of policies targeted at workers’ wellbeing and security.

And they are likely to pay off, too.

Domestic violence has a devastating impact on the health and wellbeing of employees, and it inevitably reduces their work capacities and productivity.

Employees experiencing such violence may go through difficulties concentrating on their tasks, experience decreased life and job satisfaction, and reduced work performance.

In some cases, they may not be able to make it to work at all.

A KPMG report published in 2016 estimated the costs of FDV on workplaces, and projected that for each person who suffers FDV, 7.2 workdays are lost each year from absenteeism due to physical violence, 8.1 days as a result of sexual violence, and 10.1 days as a result of stalking.

Workplace measures to support those going through such experiences can provide workers with more protection and more options, and mitigate the associated productivity losses.

Not only may experiences of family and domestic violence lead to productivity losses among employees, many who go through such experiences may simply drop out of employment altogether unless they are appropriately supported.

This adds to the costs organisations have to bear from staff turnover, such as recruitment and the training of new employees. But the converse is also true.

A supportive work environment with a comprehensive suite of family and domestic violence measures will enhance their opportunity and motivation to remain in their jobs.

The evidence shows that, increasingly, businesses are taking on the responsibility to act to address the impacts of gender-based violence on their workforce. And it’s the right thing to do.

• Astghik Mavisakalyan is an associate professor at the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre


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