Domestic violence comes out of the darkness

by Janie Smith27 Aug 2014
Domestic violence is stepping out of the personal arena, with more and more organisations offering paid leave to those experiencing it.

Paid leave provisions for victims of domestic violence now cover 1.6 million workers in Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Companies providing the leave included National Australia Bank, McDonald’s, Aldi, Dulux and Priceline.

Ludo McFerran, national manager of the Safe at Home, Safe at Work project, said domestic violence leave had “really taken off”.

She said it was important for employers to know that it wasn’t their job to “fix” domestic violence, but to deal with it as a workplace issue and provide those affected with support and information about where they could get expert advice.

“You create an informed, safe environment in which employees feel safe to come forward and talk to you about what the issues are.”

Statistics showed that a third of the workforce would experience domestic violence at some point in their lifetime.

McFerran said besides paid leave, employers could provide support in the form of a quiet place in which employees could contact expert services and provide safety planning if necessary.

Arriving at and leaving work could be danger points for domestic violence victims because it was a predictable part of their schedule and their abuser would know where to find them, she said.

If employees were being harassed by email and phone, employers could look at providing screening or the ability to record the calls for legal evidence if a protection order was being breached.

For workers who did have protection orders, they could be encouraged to name their workplace in the order.

“Then if you’re harassed at work, the matter is pretty straightforward – a law has been broken and it’s pretty straightforward what you do.”

A domestic violence survey conducted by Safe at Home, Safe at Work found that those who did discuss domestic violence situations at work were more likely to talk to colleagues than managers.

It was important for staff to know how they could respond in such a situation, McFerran said.

Another important message for the workplace was that domestic violence was not gendered.

“We do recognise that men can find themselves in abusive relationships,” said McFerran.

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