Domestic and family violence is a workplace issue. Here’s why. - The Handy Guide

Domestic and family violence is a workplace issue. Here’s why.

Oct 19, 2023

Domestic and family violence is not just a problem within the confines of one’s home – it’s a deeply troubling issue that can spill over into the workplace.

In this article, we will explore how domestic and family violence is indeed a workplace concern, why addressing it is crucial, and how workplaces can play a role in providing support to those in need.

Why domestic and family violence is a workplace issue

In Australia, one in four women and one in thirteen men will experience some form of domestic and family violence in their lifetime. Research also suggests that two-thirds of Australian women who report violence by a current partner are part of the paid workforce.

Consider this, too: given the prevalence of victims, there is an equally alarming concern that some individuals may be perpetrating domestic violence from within the workplace itself. This jarring reality highlights the truth that domestic and family violence is not just a private matter – it is a workplace issue that deserves our time and action.

Recognising domestic violence in the workplace

Domestic violence can manifest in various ways, often shrouded in secrecy and shame. Victims may conceal their ordeal from their managers, leading to potential impacts on their work life.

For example, dealing with the challenges of domestic violence may necessitate a drop in productivity or absences from work, as victims grapple with physical, emotional, and logistical burdens. They may require flexibility in their work schedule to attend to their pressing needs, including medical appointments or legal proceedings.

What’s more, domestic violence can seep into the workplace itself if the abusive partner resorts to harassment through emails, phone calls, or even showing up uninvited, creating a hostile and distressing environment for the victim.

However, it is important to recognise that domestic violence in the workplace can take on various forms. For some individuals, their job might be a sanctuary away from the turmoil at home. Work provides a sense of security and competence, allowing them to function at their best, possibly leading them to arrive early and leave late as a safety strategy.

How can your workplace provide support?

For those who are employed, your workplace may have policies to support you if you are experiencing domestic and family violence.

Importantly, beginning from 1 August 2023, all Australians are entitled to 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave each year. This monumental step signifies a substantial move towards supporting victims in their time of need.

Initiating a conversation with your employer about experiencing domestic and family violence can be intimidating, but it's an essential step towards getting the support you need. To ensure that your workplace effectively supports you, ask about their relevant resources, policies and procedures, including:

  • Designated paid domestic and family violence leave: From 1 August 2023, all Australian can access 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave each year, as well as 5 days of unpaid domestic and family violence leave.
  • Domestic and family violence policies: Some workplaces may have established policies to address domestic and family violence issues, including clear procedures for reporting and seeking help.
  • Flexible work opportunities: In compliance with the Fair Work Act, some employers may provide flexible work arrangements to accommodate your specific needs during this challenging period.
  • Safety planning procedures: Your workplace may have safety plans in place to ensure your security while at work.
  • Training for staff: Awareness training for all employees, as well as specialised training for Human Resources and Line Managers, can help create a supportive and informed work environment.
  • Policies Against Harassment: Your workplace may have policies in place to protect you from harassment through phone calls, texts, or emails.
  • Counselling Services: Many employers offer Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), which often include free counselling services to help you cope with the emotional and psychological challenges you may be facing.

Case study: Jie, a 32-year-old survivor of domestic violence, found herself at a crossroads when she left her abusive partner. Following a physical attack that left her unable to attend work, Jie made the brave decision to reach out to her manager for support.

Much to her relief, her manager responded with empathy and unwavering support. After taking several days off work to recover and secure safe accommodation for herself and her baby, Jie’s manager, who was herself a survivor of an abusive relationship, connected her with counselling services and stood by her as she navigated the daunting process of attending court.

Jie’s manager’s consistent check-ins and the implementation of flexible work arrangements, such as altering her work hours and allowing her to work from home, played a big role in ensuring her safety and well-being.

What to expect from your workplace

Workplaces should be mindful that they might encounter individuals who may be going through family and domestic violence situations. If you feel comfortable sharing your situation at work, here's what you can anticipate:

  • Safety assessment: Your employer might inquire about your safety to determine if immediate steps are necessary, such as contacting the police.
  • Resources information: They can provide you with information on where to find professional guidance and local support services. You can also refer to this list of service providers and organisations.
  • Respect for autonomy: Your employer should not tell you what to do or intervene on your behalf. They are there to support and assist, not to control your decisions.

Colleagues and employers should always convey their support, respect, and willingness to assist when communicating with a victim who chooses to discuss their situation.

Read Next: Staying Connected To Stay Safe

Support services

There are many services to contact for help, such as Relationships Australia at 1300 364 277, DVConnect Womensline at 1800 811 811, DVConnect Mensline at 1800 600 636, and 1800 RESPECT at 1800 737 732.

If you are in immediate danger, contact your local emergency service.

Remember that everyone has the right to feel safe in their home – and help is always available.

From controlling behaviours to something just feeling a bit ‘off’, the red flags of domestic violence and coercive control present themselves in different ways for different people. Learn how to spot the red flags of domestic violence in your own relationship – or someone else’s.