Domestic violence leave: addressing violence against women

by Chloe Taylor06 Feb 2015
One of Australia’s largest private sector employers is the latest company to offer employees domestic violence leave.

Telstra is offering workers affected by family violence up to ten days’ leave per year.

The move sees the telecommunications giant join a growing number of organisations who offer leave to those affected by domestic violence, which was first established by the Surf Coast Shire Council in Torquay.

In September 2012, Telstra joined a pilot of White Ribbon's Workplace Accreditation Program, which aimed to help workplaces prevent and respond to violence against women, be it at home, in the workplace, or sexual harassment. The program has now been fully launched, and is accessible to organisations of all sizes.

HC spoke to Jessica Luter, national executive at White Ribbon Australia about their Accreditation Program.

“The Accreditation Program addresses the issue of violence against women,” Luter told HC. “It provides tools for organisations to respond to incidents of violence involving staff inside or outside of workplace.”

“We’ve helped Telstra to use our campaign to engage staff on the issue of violence against women,” she said. “When an organisation trains to pass the program, they increase staff awareness of the issue. This helps employees improve their ability to recognise and identify warning signs when their colleagues are dealing with violence inside or outside of work.”

“The training also gives managers the confidence to talk about violence and refer victims onto the appropriate services,” Luter said, adding that employers are “not expected to become counsellors”.

It is estimated that more than a third of women are affected by domestic violence at some point in their lives, with Domestic Violence Victoria giving an approximate figure of 34% of women having experienced violence from a partner or ex-partner.

“By implementing a domestic violence leave policy, organisations are saying that they acknowledge it’s a human rights issue as well as a workplace issue,” Luter told HC. “It increases the support you give to staff and sends a clear message to victims in your workforce that their employer will take the issue seriously. With a policy in place, victims of violence know where to find help, and that if they say anything it will be dealt with discreetly and appropriately without affecting their career path or working life.”

“We’ve been working on the issue of men’s violence against women since 2009 and evolved our approach since then,” Telstra’s head of diversity and inclusion, Troy Roderick, told SmartCompany. “One of the things we learnt was that we should have a domestic violence policy and we were encouraged by White Ribbon to explore this. We also saw evidence of the role employers can play. If you look at the prevention data and instances of women dying in relationships, it’s clear this is a very important issue that needs to be addressed.”

“Organisations who are accredited and aligning with White Ribbon are really walking the walk,” Luter added. “They are saying to their staff that they will support them and will not allow the violence to continue.”

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