Workplace support for DV victims slow in coming

By Mihajla Gavin and Ruth Weatherall

Domestic violence is no longer considered a private matter.

However, it’s only in the last two decades that domestic violence has come firmly into view as a workplace issue. Domestic violence has traditionally fallen outside the scope of legal frameworks and policy governing the workplace.

Domestic violence has come into view as a workplace issue.
Domestic violence has come into view as a workplace issue.Credit:iStock

There is no denying that Australian workplaces have made progress to support those impacted by domestic violence.

After a decade of campaigning, paid domestic violence leave has been enshrined as national workplace law. A new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children recognises the key role that businesses play in ending violence. And, in a national first, a Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner has been appointed to monitor implementation of the National Plan.

But unfortunately this progress remains slow. Most countries still have no national entitlements or protections for victims of domestic violence at the workplace level.

Additionally, many Australian organisations are still at the early stages of developing gender-responsive policy frameworks to support victims of violence in their workplaces.

This slow development is concerning as workers impacted by domestic violence change jobs more frequently, have higher rates of absenteeism and turnover, lower levels of performance and productivity, and are more likely to be concentrated in precarious work.

Our research shows that supporting victims of violence makes good business sense. There are also moral and ethical responsibilities for workplaces to protect human rights and progress gender equality.

Setting a workplace agenda on domestic violence


In a recent symposium organised at the University of Technology Sydney Business School, we brought key stakeholder groups, including academics, trade unions, NGOs, social enterprise, and First Nations, together to discuss ways that business can better address both the impact and underlying causes of gender-based domestic violence.

The consensus was clear: workplaces must do more to prevent and address the causes and impact of domestic violence.

Professor Anne Summers’ opening address at the symposium portrayed a painful reality as evident in her research: women without quality economic support (including employment) face horrendous choices between poverty or staying with an abusive partner.

Participants represented the diverse range of stakeholders who can disrupt this painful ‘choice’ and offer innovative pathways to safety in and through workplaces.

Trade unions, for example, have been instrumental in negotiating industrial provisions for victims. Paid domestic violence leave costs businesses just five cents per worker a day, but is crucial for worker wellbeing.

On a national and global scale, policy and guidance for workplaces still needs to be reimagined.

There are opportunities to better position domestic violence as a workplace health and safety issue as well as a social justice issue.

Several participating NGOs emphasised, however, that plain old policy is not enough. Workplaces need to make structural changes to ensure policy implementation is gender-responsive and protects victims throughout their journey.

Academics and frontline organisations argued that workplace domestic violence policies must be part of a long-term strategy to address gender, racial and identity-based inequality in organisations.

Social enterprise Scriibed, for example, tackles labour market inequalities by providing pathways into skilled employment for victims of violence. Listening to women’s stories and placing care and wellbeing at the centre of workplace policy is also crucial to support those impacted by violence.

A time for action

So, what action should workplaces take going forward?

Make change on domestic violence policy collaboratively. Promote primary prevention of violence in the workplace. Value and listen to the voice of victims. Create dialogue with all organisational stakeholders.

And be bold. Workplaces must continue to drive change to play their role in ending domestic violence.

Dr Mihajla Gavin is a Senior Lecturer in the Management Department at UTS Business School. Dr
Ruth Weatherall is a Lecturer in the Management Department at UTS Business School.

The Opinion newsletter is a weekly wrap of views that will challenge, champion and inform your own. Sign up here.

Most Viewed in Business

Source: Thanks