Do workplaces have a role in preventing domestic violence?

Companies must be guided by 3 Rs -- recognise, respond and refer -- in drafting a plan

Do workplaces have a role in preventing domestic violence?

One in six women in Australia has experienced violence at the hands of a current or former partner, and employers have the duty of care to have a plan on how to handle domestic violence situations involving their workers.

“Often, for these women, the workplace provides a sanctuary away from the abuser,” said Sally Kirkright, CEO of AccessEAP, a corporate psychology organisation.

Domestic violence drains the Australian economy by about $21.7 billion a year.

A national survey revealed that 94% of Australians believe domestic violence is also a workplace issue and 48% of those who experienced it actually disclosed it to a manager.

Among these, however, just 10% found their bosses’ response helpful.

 “With White Ribbon Day taking place on November 25th, it’s the perfect time to examine current policies and perhaps consider introducing a structured plan.”

Integrated real estate group Mirvac, for instance, is working with AccessEAP to design and implement its own domestic violence action plan.

The plan would ensure that victims feel safe and secure within the workplace.

Mirvac now commits to be White Ribbon accredited. “Our main focus is to provide an environment where disclosure can take place allowing real assistance for people in a domestic violence situation,” said Mirvac’s National HR Manager Stuart Pearson.

AccessEAP helps companies educate their employees and create an action plan based on three Rs – recognise, respond, refer.

Recognising means being able to see changes in behavioural patterns that indicate a woman may be experiencing domestic violence.

Among the patterns that may raise red flags are:

  • Frequently arriving to work very early or very late
  • Frequent personal phone calls that leave the employee distressed
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Not attending out of hours work functions or engaging socially with colleagues
  • Stress
  • Ill health and increased leave usage
  • Wanting to resign or relocate

Responding means listening to the person once she takes the difficult step of sharing her experience of abuse.  Believe the person; refrain from judging. Be supportive, encouraging, open and honest.

The following practical steps may also help the employee:

  • Screening their phone calls or install caller ID on their phone
  • Changing their email address and remove their details from the organisation’s directories
  • Encouraging the employee to alter their daily travel route
  • Arranging for priority parking close to the building entrance
  • Organising for them to be accompanied to and from their car
  • Alerting key staff with full consent and ensure they are discreet at all times
  • Ensuring employee’s workstation is not easily accessible for someone entering from outside

Referring means directing victims of violence to an expert that can provide crisis counselling, information on crisis care facilities and refuges, information on domestic violence orders and court support and information on longer term counselling services.

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