It is a tough question. Forever and a day domestic violence has not been a relevant workplace consideration. Historically it is not even something that was spoken about at work or in ‘polite society’. However the times have changed and as a society we are confronting domestic violence in a far more direct and public manner than ever before. In Victoria there is a Royal Commission into Family Violence and the Go4Zero Campaign and these are just some of big picture Victorian Government responses. There is also White Ribbon Day and all of the local level initiatives that are delivered by hardworking local members of our community. However does all of this mean that it is a workplace issue?
Most studies indicate that about 1 in 3 woman will have an experience of domestic violence and as was reported recently 70% of domestic violence cases are against women who are in the paid workplace. As the 2014 Australian of the Year, Rose Battie said:
“The year before Luke was murdered by his father I spent multiple days in court… Multiple days in court that were stressful, tiring, I don’t even know how many days, but at least six or eight days in court. I was also making statements to police, so again that was time taken out of your day, making statements and following up with other matters connected to these charges.”
So if woman in the workplace are being so heavily effected, it stands to reason that this is NOW a real workplace issue that managers have to grapple with. Already, through workplace agreements there are approximately 1.6 million workers who have access to paid domestic violence leave including employees at Telstra, NAB and Kmart. Some company policies state that managers will “provide a sensitive and non-judgmental approach” and “make arrangements in their workplace to make them less vulnerable to any domestic violence” and that they “will not be discriminate against anyone who has been subjected to domestic violence in terms of their existing employment or career development.”
This is a noble sentiment however reality can be different. We supported an organisation where a Supervisor had to move location a number of times, had numerous Court appearances and whose attendance was highly disrupted due to Domestic Violence. She did not want to talk about her situation at work and in fact it was dangerous for her to do so. As a consequence her Team and colleagues became highly resentful of her as they felt they had to ‘carry’ her workload. As we see in all other areas of workplace behaviour and management, managers can grow angry and frustrated with employees who are “always off” and “always late”.
Do your managers have any idea how to deal with this? Are they up to assessing and making decisions on how to support individuals and the business or organisation?
Currently the ACTU is seeking to have 10 days of Domestic Violence Leave a year put into Awards. If this occurs it can be expected to spread far more widely across the broader employment market perhaps even being adopted as a National Employment Standard (NES). The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry currently opposes this entitlement calling it “a huge cost to business” and raising the issue that it may actually create an impediment to small and medium businesses, employing woman or progressing them through their organisations. The reasoning behind this is the perception may develop that woman are entitled to additional leave that men are not likely to access.
So to answer our question… YES, this is a serious workplace issue that requires serious consideration for your people managers. How is your business dealing with this? We’d really like to hear from you on this very important topic.