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DFV: a workplace issue?

In November 2021 the Champions of Change Coalition stated domestic and family violence (DFV) is not just a family issue but also a workplace issue costing Australian businesses billions each year.

Workplaces understanding the complexities of DFV is not a ‘nice to have’ but rather an integrated part of organisational culture and policy for organisations that are serious about supporting their people.

This article will explore the reasons why DFV is a workplace issue and the direct impacts it can have on the workplace:

1. DFV is in the workplace

Research shows one (1) in four (4) women and one (1) in 13 men in Australia will experience some form of domestic and family violence (DFV) in their lifetime. One (1) in three (3) LBGTIQA+ Australians report having been in an abusive relationship. 62 per cent of women who have experienced or are currently experiencing DFV are in the paid workforce, and it can be reasonably assumed a similar number of people using DFV are in the workforce.

2. The cost

DFV impacts work performance and productivity. Research indicates 16 per cent of people experiencing DFV often feel distracted, tired or unwell, 10 per cent will take time off, and 7 per cent are often late for work.

Just 48 per cent of those who experienced DFV disclose to their manager. Of those that did, only 10 per cent found the response from their manager helpful. DFV costs the Australian economy $26 billion and costs Australian businesses $2 billion annually. This is largely due to lost opportunity costs, errors, absenteeism, poor service, stress, performance management, search and hiring costs, retaining costs and permanent loss of labour capacity.

Workplaces can play an important role in preventing and responding to DFV by providing a safe working environment. One (1) in five (5) Australian women say the violence continues at work. We also acknowledge that men experience DFV and we know the reporting rates are low.

The workplace has a role to play to create a culture of safety for everyone. DFV can take the form of abusive calls, emails or a partner turning up at work which poses a risk to the person experiencing violence and their colleagues

3. Legislative responsibility

As part of changes to the National Employment Standards, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) has been amended to provide the right for workers to request flexible work arrangements and access to unpaid DFV leave if they are experiencing DFV.

For staff at risk, flexible work arrangements may be lifesaving. A change to work patterns and hours, paid leave, a different desk, and a change to a phone number are practical steps that can be taken to better ensure the safety of a staff member experiencing DFV. In some states, industries like telecommunications, banking and utilities require businesses or licensees to have a DFV policy that includes mandatory training for staff or those engaging with customers.

4. There may be a risk to your business

In its 2010 review, the Australian Law Reform Commission confirmed DFV can be recognised as a workplace issue. The Commission recommended businesses take reasonable precautions to prevent harm to workers as part of their legal obligations. This includes the possibility of harm to employees from non-employees such as partners, ex-partners and other family members who may be using family violence. Moreover, the Commission also found that workplace duty of care applies to work activities wherever they occur, including the home.

Employees who are using violence may also use business assets such as vehicles and technology to stalk, harass and intimidate, including during work hours.

5. It’s the right thing to do

Research from the Australian Human Rights Commission indicates many employers do not have the knowledge, resources, and tools to support staff impacted by DFV. Workplaces can prepare themselves with an effective workplace DFV policy to better respond to incidences of DFV.

A policy contains current information and resources. When considering many Australians do not disclose DFV due to shame, judgement, fear of unemployment or lack of economic security. The workplace has a unique opportunity to provide life-changing support and security. A workplace has the ability to support employees change their circumstances while keeping their job.

If your workplace is ready to make a change, it can be difficult to know where to start. Challenge DV is passionate about working with you and guiding your organisation on your journey. To find out more contact us at team@challengedv.org or 07 3119 6347.

Challenge DV is proud to be a collaborator and contributor to the Champions of Change Coalition ‘Playing Our Part’ report. The report can be downloaded here.

Support services can be accessed here.