Workplace culture change needed on domestic and family violence

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Sunday, 16 October, 2022 - 12:30
Industry news
National News

One in 5 victim-survivors of domestic and family violence work in the same workplace as their abuser, according to research from Monash University.

Furthermore, 60 per cent of such victim-survivors who work alongside their abuser report that the abuser holds a position of power above them in the workplace.

“This is a particularly concerning finding because of the range of ways in which workplace hierarchies can further reinforce pre-existing power imbalances in relationships and facilitate further opportunities for abuse and control,” according to the study, From workplace sabotage to embedded supports: examining the impact of domestic and family violence across Australian workplaces.

“These findings have important implications for employee safety, duty of care and the provision of supports.”

In order to better support domestic and family violence victim-survivors, the report said a shift in thinking is required whereby Australian workplaces recognise that domestic and family violence and work are entirely inseparable.

Furthermore, the report highlighted the critical importance of workplace culture and the need for significant cultural change across Australian workforces to ensure that domestic and family violence is routinely understood as a workplace issue.

“Alongside the implementation of new legislation to introduce paid domestic and family violence leave across Australian industries, there is a need to utilise this policy window to shift the expectation dial among employers so that it is not considered exceptional practice but rather the accepted norm to provide workplace supports to employees experiencing domestic and family violence,” the report said.

“To this end, the cultural change required necessitates a shift in thinking whereby domestic and family violence supports are viewed as a preliminary employer responsibility and perceived through a duty-of-care lens – alongside a host of other OHS responsibilities that are routinely accepted without question by employers.”

The study, based on an anonymous survey of 3000 victim-survivors working across a range of industries in Australia, found 2515 respondents reported their job was impacted by their experience of domestic and family violence, while a further:

  • 1 in 2 victim-survivors reported that domestic and family violence negatively impacted their career progression and opportunities.
  • 2 in 3 victim-survivors reported that domestic and family violence impacted their ability to concentrate at work.
  • 2 in 5 victim-survivors reported that domestic and family violence impacted their productivity and ability to enjoy their job.
  • 1 in 3 victim-survivors reported that domestic and family violence led them to socially withdraw from co-workers.
  • 1 in 4 victim-survivors reported that domestic and family violence impacted their punctuality for work.

“Understanding the link between DFV and reduced work performance is essential to inform workplace support practice and policies, ensuring that victim-survivors are not subjected to performance management or at risk of demotion or employment termination,” said report co-author Professor Kate Fitz-Gibbon.

“Our study reveals that impeding access to employment is a key tactic utilised by perpetrators. Abusers not only make it difficult for victim-survivors to engage in paid employment, but also tactically impede victim-survivors’ abilities to perform, advance career goals and to thrive at work.”