When it comes to Domestic violence (DV), Pandora’s is well and truly open, and it is no longer the silent issue that is too uncomfortable to talk about. It is increasingly being discussed in the media and people are starting to understand just how pervasive DV is in society.
Reporting is on the increase with 36% of women seeking help in 2005 according to the Australian Social Trends 2007 Study. By 2012 this number increased to 61% according to the ABS 2012 Personal Safety Study, and whilst there has not been a personal safety survey done since that date, we think that the increased discussion over the last couple of years can only mean an increase in the number of incidents being reported.
The Victorian Royal Commission has included the workplace when it talks about responsibility and prevention and suggested some complimentary measures for workplaces in its Full Report.
Its findings were that workplaces are widely regarded as an important site for intervening to address family violence for several reasons:
• Family violence can have a negative impact on a victim’s employment.
• The workplace can be a place where family violence is perpetrated.
• Employment can be a protective factor against family violence, and employers and colleagues can play a role in recognising the signs of violence and supporting an employee who is experiencing it.
• A workplace’s culture can perpetuate attitudes that support and condone family violence, making it an important place for promoting gender equity and positive changes to violence-supportive attitudes and behaviours.
For many victims the workplace is the only place that they have autonomy and feel safe to disclose and therefore the report recommends:
• The financial security and independence provided by paid employment increases a victim’s ability to leave the relationship and recover from the effects of the violence.
• The workplace can be the only place where the victim spends time physically away from the perpetrator, giving her the space to take steps to ensure her safety.
• Employers and colleagues can play an important role in helping victims recognise that they are experiencing family violence and supporting them in seeking help.
For victims of DV the financial security that comes from maintaining employment is a key factor in building a successful life in which they are contributing members of society. Employers who are early adopters in implementing policies and training about DV will be protecting not only the effected employee but also themselves.
The more we talk about DV in the media and in government, the more we are going to see this issue as something that employers should not only be aware of, but be actively finding ways to support their employees.
So the questions that HR personnel and departments should be asking themselves are:
1. Do we know what this is costing in terms of absenteeism and employee turnover?
2. Do we have the correct policies in place?
3. Do the company have clear guidelines on who is the contact person for anyone dealing with abuse?
4. If yes, does that contact person know what measures the company has in place to support them?
5. Do we have the processes for reporting and confidentiality in place? Does it take the Privacy Act into consideration?
6. Do we have the training structures in place so that all employees understand DV and the policy and procedure in place?
If the answer to any of those questions is no, then the company in going to be vulnerable as the conversation on this topic continues and those is abusive relationship expect to be able to seek support from their employer. In an age when a good Social License is essential to any business, this is not the time to drop the ball on Corporate Social Responsibility and pretend this does not affect your company.
Pandora’s Box is open whether action is taken or not and DV is an issue workplaces need to engage with. Is your company ready?
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