The unsettling truth about domestic violence is that it infiltrates all areas of society, crossing lines of age, gender, culture, sexuality, and socio-economic status.
According to the ABS, approximately 1 in 6 women and around 1 in 17 men have experienced partner violence in Australia.
The good news is that ADIs and FinTechs can play a crucial role in supporting employees who are dealing with domestic violence.
What is domestic violence and what impact can it have?
Domestic violence encapsulates more than physical abuse. It can take many forms, including physical violence, emotional abuse, or attempts to control another person’s behaviour. A victim's life inevitably becomes deeply challenging in the face of abuse, as the general juggling of work, home, and social networks tends to become unmanageable.
For the individual, such violence can impact upon:
· Financial security
· Ability to maintain employment
· Access to suitable accommodation
· Financial risk
Why help staff facing domestic violence?
Domestic violence is not just an issue of 'doing the right thing’ for staff at the individual level of wellbeing. The financial impact on workplaces is significant, with an annual cost to employers of $175 million, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman's Employer Guide to Family and Domestic Violence.
Providing a safe and supportive workplace environment can lead to:
· Higher retention rates
· Improved staff morale
· Better health outcomes for employees
So how can ADIs and FinTechs support employees who are suffering domestic violence?
Take notice of the signs of domestic violence
There is a whole range of signs to look out for that employers can educate themselves around in order to assist abuse victims. Some of these include:
· Uncharacteristic distress, preoccupation, or anxiety.
· Significant changes in work times, comfort breaks or increased absenteeism.
· Uncharacteristic slumps in productivity.
· Changes in telephone or internet usage, including constant interruption at work on personal devices.
· Visible signs of bruising, cuts, or other unexplained injury.
· Tearfulness and being unusually withdrawn.
Certainly, each issue on its own could point to any number of work, home or social problems. Yet employers should keep the possibility of domestic violence in mind.
Proactively combatting domestic violence
The very first thing ADIs and FinTechs can do to help is establish clear policies and procedures directed to a safe working environment for all employees.
Survivors of domestic violence can be in a fragile emotional and physical state. Ensuring that the workplace is safe, supportive, and free of further violence is absolutely crucial.
A comprehensive strategy to promote staff wellbeing and prevent harm will include:
· Policies for a safe workplace, free of harassment and intimidation.
· Zero tolerance for violence in the workplace.
· Encouraging employees to understand and apply these policies as a part of business-as-usual.
· Make provisions for leave or flexible work arrangements.
· Special paid leave for staff who are experiencing domestic violence.
· Flexible work arrangements as set out in the Fair Employment Act.
· Encourage employees to get involved in awareness raising and education programs.
· Ensure staff are trained to recognise signs that a co-worker may be experiencing domestic violence.
· Ensure adequate support for victims.
· Address short-term and long-term needs of the victim.
· Ensure ongoing communication and check-ins with all employees, especially those that are showing signs of possible abuse.
· Respect privacy and confidentiality.
· Encourage monitoring and reflection.
· Assess the level of domestic violence experienced by your employees (e.g., surveys).
Be a champion for change
Many useful resources exist around the issue of domestic violence, and employers have the power to provide relevant information at various junctures in the supportive journey. Crisis resources can be made available when the issue is acute, while broader educational resources on domestic violence are useful not only for the employee who is suffering, but for the workplace as a whole.
Domestic violence is a scourge on Australian society. Yet ADIs and FinTechs, and indeed all employers, have the potential to be significant change-makers around this issue. Workplace policies and procedures, education and up-to-date resources are the keys to creating a safe and welcoming space for all employees.
Fair Work Ombudsman's Employer Guide to Family and Domestic Violence.
NSW Communities & Justice