The uncomfortable truth: Perpetrators of family violence are in our workplaces, along with more than 800,000 victims

Woman in the office

Given large companies inevitably employ both the victims and perpetrators of domestic and family violence, they have a responsibility to play a part in addressing the problem.

That’s the opinion of Commonwealth bank chief executive Ian Narev, whose bank is one of 17 Australian organisations to release a new report this week detailing best practice approaches for implementing a workplace response to domestic and family violence.

“It is an uncomfortable fact that large companies have victims and perpetrators,” he said, on releasing the report.

“We cannot simply accept that fact. Rather, we must accept our responsibility to play our part in changing it.”

Read more: Peter Strong on why we need government-funded domestic violence leave

The Lessons Learned report comes one year after the Male Champions of Change (MCC) released its Playing our part report, offering a three-part model of actions that any organisation can take to help reduce the prevalence and impact of violence. This latest report shares the steps, processes and frameworks some of our largest employers have found to be most effective in helping.

Once considered a ‘behind closed doors’ problem, domestic and family violence is increasingly being seen as a workplace issue. Of the 1.4 million Australian women who are or have been in an abusive relationship, 800,000 are currently employed.

The Lessons Learned report aims to offer organisations of all sizes advice and best practice methods on addressing the problem no matter what stage they’re at – be it if they’re ‘making a start’ or ‘getting serious’, or are already taking action and are evaluating their efforts.

MCC founder and chair Elizabeth Broderick said on releasing the report that organisations are finding it necessary to continually review policies and procedures.

“For example, sometimes the support on offer needs to be made more explicit. They found that manager training becomes integral because employees are more likely to disclose to a line manager than HR. Moreover, actions like simplifying leave approval processes and broadening the personnel who can approve leave are pivotal,” she said.

Broderick added the report also makes it clear that overcoming domestic violence requires access to education, support and tools – whether you’re a victim, perpetrator or bystander.

“Organisations that had reached the ‘integrated’ level found the need to strengthen policies and procedures to recognise and support customers and suppliers in crisis, and to provide education about financial independence. Entering into public advocacy and fostering national policy discussions also emerged as important opportunities,” she said.

This article was first published by Women’s Agenda.

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