Workplace Guide for Domestic Violence

November 22, 2019 | Workplace wellbeing


On the 25th of November, the UN Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women aims to prevent and end violence against women at global, regional and national levels. This two-year campaign brings light to a dark issue in the hopes that everyday awareness and activism can make an impact on the lives of those effected by gendered violence.

In the workplace, there are many ways that employers can protect and support women at work who may be experiencing some form of past or present violence.

If you or someone you know has experienced violence and is in need of urgent counselling support:

1800RESPECT 1800 737 732 24 hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

Lifeline 13 11 14 Lifeline Australia national number can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State, for those experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide

Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491 This service from No to Violence offers assistance, information and counselling to help men who use family violence.

Workplace Guide for Domestic Violence

Intimate partner violence is the single greatest risk factor for death, disability and illness in Australian women aged 18-44. This sobering statistic highlights the prevalence and seriousness of gendered violence in Australia. It is critical that workplaces have measures in place to identify and provide support for women who may be at risk.

Identify Warning Signs

Employees experiencing domestic violence may be more likely to report it to a co-worker than to others in the workplace. All employees should understand ways to recognise warning signs for those effected by gendered violence. Some of a range of warning signs include:

  • Change in job performance: poor concentration, errors, slowness, inconsistent work quality.
  • An unusual number of phone calls/text messages, strong reactions to those calls/text messages, and/or a reluctance to converse or respond to phone/text messages.
  • Requests for special accommodations such as requests to leave early or to change schedules.
  • Reluctance to leave work.
  • Clothing that is inappropriate for the season, such as long sleeves and turtlenecks — also wearing sunglasses and unusually heavy makeup.
  • Sensitivity about home life or hints of trouble at home — comments may include references to bad moods, anger, temper, and alcohol or drug abuse.

Check in with the Employee

If you believe an employee is experiencing violence or they have disclosed information to you, it is useful to meet them in a confidential environment to discuss. Use respectful language and avoid accusing, diagnosing or drawing conclusions about the situation.

Provide your employee with resources such as the contact details for your companies employee assistance program, as well as family violence services and crisis numbers. Encourage the employee to speak to a trained counsellor or psychologist that can help them to deal with the psychological ramifications of abuse.

At work, it can be useful to set up a support network that the employee feels most comfortable with. This may include the line manager, trusted colleagues, human resources, the Employee Assistance Program Provider and union representatives.

If your company does not have an employee assistance program, you can arrange a call with Uprise to set one up. Counselling services can be accessed by the next business day.

Develop a Safety Plan

It is important to try and set up a safety plan by working together and empathetically with your employee. As adapted from Making It Our Business (2014) from the Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children, here are some steps that you may discuss with your employee:

  • Share a recent photo or description of the abuser with security and reception, so they are aware of whom to look for
  • Relocate their work station so that they cannot be seen through windows or from the outside
  • Change their work phone number, have another person screen their calls, or block the abuser's calls/emails
  • Offer flexible work scheduling if it can be helpful
  • Ensure that the victim and abuser are not scheduled to work at the same time or come into contact if both are employees, clients, customers, patients, vendors, or suppliers within the organisation.
  • Establish disciplinary procedures to hold the abuser accountable for unacceptable behaviour in the workplace if they work at the same organisation

This guide has been amended from Workplace Strategies for Mental Health at Compliments of Canada Life.

Find out more information on Domestic Violence Policy and Procedures with this 8 Step Guide.

If your company would like to get involved, you can find out more about fundraising opportunities as part of UN Women or by donating to a local Women’s Community Shelter.

Uprise is a proactive employee assistance program (EAP) provider that improves employee engagement, retention and performance by enhancing psychological wellbeing. Learn more about how our program helps to proactively reduce employee stress.

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