Domestic violence: what can employers do?

Domestic violence: what can employers do?

By Mike Toten on 8 October 2018
Unpaid leave for victims of domestic violence looks close to becoming a standard entitlement for employees.

In August, the Fair Work Commission inserted a standard domestic violence leave clause into all modern awards and last month the federal government introduced a Bill to amend the Fair Work Act 2009 to add domestic violence leave to the National Employment Standards.
While the leave entitlements will provide some assistance to employees, there are other things you can do to help them. Domestic violence may sometimes have a direct impact on the workplace, for example if both the perpetrator and victim are employees, or if the perpetrator visits the workplace, tries to contact the employee at work via email or phone, or stalks the employee.

The assistance you can provide includes both domestic violence awareness training for employees and practical measures to improve employee safety.

What domestic violence awareness training should cover

Awareness training is recommended for managers. There are various external providers offering courses, typically lasting from one to four hours. Training should cover the following:
  • what is domestic violence
  • how it affects the workplace, including statistics on incidence, practical impact on employees, why it is often hard to leave a violent situation
  • legal obligations (eg to ensure a safe workplace) and entitlements for victims (see above)
  • how to recognise signs of domestic violence in employees
  • how to respond when employees disclose that they are victims
  • how to identify risks at work
  • how to support employees to maintain their job/productivity while dealing with the situation
  • how to manage confidentiality, privacy and information systems to protect employees
  • referring employees to external specialist assistance

Some safety measures

  • Consider appointing a specific person (fairly senior at least) as the “go-to” person if domestic violence issues arise. In large organisations, this can be the individual employee’s manager
  • Ensure the safety of employees’ personal information on file, eg emergency contacts, next of kin
  • Change security details for workplace entry, eg keys, cards, combinations, passwords
  • Alert reception and other contact staff (with employee’s permission) to any orders such as AVOs, including name and photos of perpetrators
  • On a need-to-know basis (and with employee’s permission), inform co-workers and agree on the best response if the perpetrator visits or contacts the workplace
  • Remind all employees not to divulge personal information about co-workers to enquirers, such as whether at/not at work, contact details, working hours
  • Discuss the employee’s needs with him/her, for example possible changes to working hours, workplace relocation
  • Arrange a secure method of contact with the employee if he/she is absent from work
  • Help the employee to vary travel methods and routes to/from work
  • If you have a contract with an Employee Assistance Program provider, check that it has the resources and expertise to deal with domestic violence cases. If not, assist the employee to find other suitable referrals, eg local domestic violence assistance agencies.
  • Review other workplace policies and procedures (eg use of email/phones/mobile devices, security) to ensure they can handle situations where the perpetrator is another employee. Policies should clearly set out the consequences for breaches, eg report to police, dismissal.
Most, if not all, of the above items can be covered in a domestic violence policy statement. Visit our sister site HR Advance for a downloadable policy.


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