Close to half of all victims of domestic violence are disclosing their abuse to a workplace manager, making prevention of domestic violence a prominent issue for employers.
Employee assistance provider AccessEAP said that one in six Australian women have experienced domestic violence at the hands of their current or former partner, at an estimated cost to the national economy of $21.7 billion annually.
Of those victims who responded to a domestic violence and workplace survey by the company, 48 per cent said they had disclosed their assault to a manager at their place of work.
Disturbingly, though, just 10 per cent found the response of their manager to be helpful.
“Workplaces have an important role to play in supporting women experiencing violence,” AccessEAP’s CEO, Sally Kirkright, said.
“Often … 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.”
According to AccessEAP, employers should work to create a domestic violence action plan around three core elements:
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-office hours work functions or engaging socially with colleagues
- Ill health and increased leave usage
- Wanting to resign or relocate
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
While provisions such as additional special leave, financial assistance and security measures will go a long way towards supporting domestic violence victims to remain in the workplace, other external supports may also be required.
Refer employees to an expert domestic violence service that 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.