Telstra begins offering staff domestic violence leave

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Telstra, one of Australia’s largest private sector employers, has become the latest organisation to offer staff domestic violence leave, with the telecommunications giant offering staff who are affected by family violence up to 10 days leave per year.

Telstra joins a growing number of organisations now offering staff domestic violence leave, a practice pioneered by the Surf Coast Shire Council in Torquay. National Australia Bank and Virgin Australia also offer employees domestic violence leave, as do some universities and other public sector organisations.

The latest move comes after Telstra joined the pilot program for White Ribbon’s Workplace Accreditation in September 2012. Other organisations that signed up at the time included the Australian Army, the National Rugby League and retailer Suzanne Grae, along with a number of government bodies, trade unions, not-for-profit groups, local councils and universities.

The campaign aims to help workplaces prevent and respond to violence against women whether it’s in the form of family violence at home, or sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

According to Domestic Violence Victoria, more than one in three Australian women (34%) who have had an intimate partner, have experienced violence from a partner or ex-partner. KPMG estimates that violence against women and children cost the Australian economy $14.7 billion in 2013 alone.

White Ribbon’s national executive for program portfolio, Jessica Luter, told SmartCompany the development of a domestic violence policy at Telstra came as part of the White Ribbon Accreditation process.

“Domestic violence leave is something that’s relatively new and we do congratulate Telstra on taking that important step,” Luter says.

“The Workplace Accreditation program is the world’s first aimed at violence against women in the workplace. It is evidence-based and across all sectors.”

According to Luter, the program has already accredited 23 organisations, with 41 more participating and 90 more expected to sign up, with participation not just limited to large companies such as Telstra.

“It is developed by independent experts and can be applied to organisations of all sizes and can be tailored to business needs. So while the largest organisation to participate is Telstra with 34,000 [employees], the smallest one has had just 13,” she says.

Telstra’s head of diversity and inclusion, Troy Roderick, told SmartCompany the domestic violence leave policy is the culmination of years of work by the telco.

“We’ve been working on the issue of men’s violence against women since 2009 and evolved our approach since then. The prevention data showed that we had both survivors and perpetrators in the Telstra family, among staff and customers, and that we had a vital role to play in raising awareness and prevention,” Roderick says.

“The accreditation process was good because it allowed us to measure out work against a standard. We gained accreditation in January 2014.”

“One of the things we learnt was that we should have a domestic violence policy and we were encouraged by White Ribbon to explore this. We also saw evidence of the role employers can play.”

“If you look at the prevention data and instances of women dying in relationships, it’s clear this is a very important issue that needs to be addressed.”

Know more? Email asadauskas@privatemedia.com.au.

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Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.

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