Workplaces and the victims of domestic abuse

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Economic considerations are one of the determining factors in whether a woman will leave or return to an abusive relationship, making it crucial for companies to develop policies in order to support staff experiencing domestic violence with paid employment.

Despite the common belief domestic violence is a private issue, the costs to the community suggest otherwise, with a 2015 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers estimating that violence against women costs $21.7 billion a year, with victims bearing the brunt of this cost.

With 17 per cent of women and 5.3 per cent of men aged 18 years and over having experienced violence by a partner since the age of 15, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ personal safety survey (PSS)2, AccessEAP, a corporate psychology organisation which supports and develops positive organisational behaviour, is encouraging companies to actively prepare and develop domestic violence policies to ensure all employees receive the support they need and are able to maintain paid employment.

“As workplaces and society become more aware of mental health issues and domestic violence in our communities, workplaces need to prepare themselves for managing employees with either mental health concerns or who are experiencing domestic violence,” says Sally Kirkright, CEO of AccessEAP.

“The aim of developing a domestic violence policy and awareness plan is to commit to assisting employees, so they can continue to engage with their work and their colleagues while accessing the support they need.”

Domestic violence is a complex issue and comes in many different forms. It includes physical violence as well as emotional, sexual, financial, social and spiritual abuses. It can occur in all households, irrespective of age, culture or socio-economic background.

For companies looking to manage employees facing these issues, it can be daunting, especially for human resource professionals who have not met these challenges previously.

Work plays a key role in assisting individuals to maintain financial security, a sense of identity and self-esteem, structure and crucial social connections when other parts of life appear chaotic.

“Many organisations are developing or considering a domestic violence policy or becoming a White Ribbon accredited organisation. It’s important to provide awareness and education on managing domestic violence as most managers want to help, but don’t always know the right thing to say.”

Longer term support may involve human resources or management developing a return-to-work plan to support an employee’s meaningful engagement with their role, streamlining administrative functions, such as payroll procedures or offering access to other financial plans, and implementing flexible work arrangements.