Deathcare provider launches world-leading domestic violence policy

Employer responsibility goes beyond the workplace

Deathcare provider launches world-leading domestic violence policy

Thanks to COVID-19, the line between home and the office is not as clear as it used to be.

With more people working from home and added financial stress caused by the pandemic, domestic violence rates have risen sharply.

Across many of Australia’s states and territories, support services have been inundated with calls for help from those in danger.

Between January and August, referrals to the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre jumped 189% compared with the previous year, while phone calls rose by 55% in the same period.

Across the border in Victoria, a survey by Monash University found over 50% of domestic violence workers have reported an increase in the frequency and severity of incidents.

While domestic violence has been on the HR radar for some time, the employer responsibility has come under the spotlight during the pandemic.

Speaking to HRD, InvoCare human resources director Amanda Tober said there has been an increase in the number of companies implementing domestic violence policies over the last five years.

As a leading deathcare provider across Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, Tober said InvoCare employees are on the frontline in witnessing the tragic consequences of domestic violence.

“At the beginning of last year we saw an increase in the amount of cases that our employees were supporting around family and domestic violence, as well as mental health,” she said.

“We really experienced that increase in societal challenges and on the back of that, it created some urgency in our organisation to continue our focus on building out our support programs around domestic violence.”

Read more: Domestic violence: What's HR's responsibility?

Statistics show 60% of women who experience domestic violence are employed, meaning within most organisations there will be workers experiencing violence, whether directly or indirectly.

Tober said at InvoCare, it was important to take a two-pronged approach to support the community of people affected by the epidemic, as well as their own employees.

The company partnered with family and domestic violence advocate White Ribbon to create a world-leading policy and equip staff with the right training to better support those impacted.

They doubled the amount of government recommended domestic violence leave to ten days paid and ten days unpaid.

They also rolled out a number of learning programs to help employees feel more comfortable in talking about domestic violence, whether they are supporting a customer or opening up the conversation with a colleague.

Read more: CBA announces free domestic violence workplace resources

Because while adequate leave is important, giving managers the right tools to help employees safely is just as important.

So how should managers approach the topic of domestic violence with an employee?

“It's a really tricky one because I don’t think there's any perfect roadmap or playbook through that conversation,” Tober said. “But what we have learned is that acknowledging the situation is a really good place to start.

“The next step is being supportive and listening in a non-judgmental way. Then, where you can try to help the individual get to a point where they create a safety plan that works for them.

“That could include a number of different things, such as deciding who their emergency person is when they're in a particularly difficult situation.

“If they did decide to leave the relationship, what could that look like and what support might they need?”

Knowing what resources are available is also key, making sure they know where to go to access expert guidance and support.

Tober after rolling out the new policy and learning tools, the positive feedback from employees has been overwhelming.

“A lot of our people feel the impact of domestic violence through their work so it’s an issue that is close to home and they're very passionate about,” she said.

“They have had a lot of respect for the organisation around its commitment to try and make a difference, both within the community and then themselves as employees.”

InvoCare has further training planned for the company’s workplace-nominated trained responders, a role which sits parallel with the executive and HR team.

The company also plans to launch a Community Action Group to continue the conversation around domestic violence, bringing together employees and members of the local community.

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