Gendered Violence & Work

What is gendered violence?

Gendered violence is an expression of power and control over individuals or groups because of their gender. It is a broad term that encompasses domestic, family and sexual violence, and includes sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, intimate partner violence, and violence among household members, extended families and kinships.

Gender-related violence, gender-based violence (GBV), sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and violence against women (VAW) are other commonly used terms in this field. However, while it is clear that women and children are disproportionately affected, we use ‘gendered violence’ with the acknowledgment that men, women, elders and youth can be victims and perpetrators. In addition, we acknowledge that gendered violence can be experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

How does domestic, family and sexual violence affect employees and organisations?

Employees experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence are particularly vulnerable in relation to work due to the predictability of their location and hours. Moreover, the strain of dealing with the abuse may impact an employee’s productivity, performance and wellbeing. Research conducted in 2011 found that 19% of Australian workers who had experienced domestic violence in the previous 12 months reported the harassment continued at their workplace. The primary form of abuse involved receiving threatening phone calls and emails, and over 11% of respondents who had experienced domestic violence reported that the perpetrator had physically come to their workplace.

The perpetrator may also harass and threaten other employees, placing these workers at risk. This is especially the case for workers who are the first point of contact in a business, or for those working directly with colleagues who are experiencing abuse. In addition, employees who support affected co-workers may find that doing so affects their own productivity due to stress and greater workloads.

Why should employers address the effects of domestic, family and sexual violence on their employees and organisations?

There are multiple benefits for employers who proactively and effectively address the effects of domestic, family and sexual violence on the workplace:

  • Reduces costs and increases savings
  • Helps to fulfil employers’ duty of care
  • Improves staff health, safety and wellbeing
  • Demonstrates corporate social responsibility
  • Positions the organisation as an employer of choice.

Employers can reduce costs and increase savings by providing supports to employees who are victims so that they can maintain their employment, thereby improving long-term productivity, safeguarding institutional knowledge and offsetting potential termination, recruitment and retraining expenses. Further, organisations which appropriately manage employees who are perpetrators of domestic, family and sexual violence will reduce the risk of vicarious liability and reputational damage – particularly if these employees are perpetrating violence on work premises, using work resources or during paid work time.

Employers will be fulfilling their duty of care to employees, contractors and clients by providing a safe workplace where foreseeable risks are removed or mitigated. This in turn could reduce insurance premiums and other security costs and will enhance the health, safety and wellbeing of all staff.

Taking a stand against and responding to domestic, family and sexual violence will also demonstrate commitment to the organisation’s stated values and corporate social responsibility charters. This will enhance an employer’s reputation both within their workforce and the wider community. For example, Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency will require employers from 2016 onwards to report if they have formal policies or strategies to support workers who are experiencing domestic and family violence in order for the organisation to be considered for an Employer of Choice citation.

About the Gendered Violence & Work program

The Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN) at UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales) has succeeded the Centre of Gender-Related Violence Studies (CGRVS) which previously housed the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse (ADFVC). Researchers from GVRN have continued to develop certain work undertaken by CGRVS/ADFVC alongside many new initiatives such as the Gendered Violence & Work program.


  • 2015

Launched the Gendered Violence & Work program as part of UNSW’s Gendered Violence Research Network (GVRN) with expanded advisory and training services for employers who want to address the effects of domestic, family and sexual violence on their employees and organisations.

  • 2014–Current

Partnered with the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, along with the Business Coalition For Women and Pacific Adventist University in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to address the effects of family and sexual violence (FSV) on the workplace in PNG.

This includes the development of culturally-appropriate, gender-sensitive and gender-equitable strategies for businesses. In 2014, the team created PNG’s first ‘Model Policy on Family and Sexual Violence’ based on international good practice and participatory research in PNG. The current phase involves implementation support for local employers through research, training and advisory services, as well as building the capacity of local trainers.

  • 2013

Undertook pilot research with survivors of sexual violence in the Northern Territory, Australia to establish the effects of sexual violence on employees and their organisations.

  • 2013

Successfully advocated for changes to Australia’s Fair Work Act (2013) to provide all employees in the federal jurisdiction the right to request a change in work arrangements if they are: experiencing violence from a family member; or they need to provide care and support to a member of their immediate family/household as a result of domestic and family violence.

  • 2010–2013

Developed pioneering research, advisory and training services to help employers implement domestic and family violence supports for their employees and successfully advocated for the uptake of domestic and family violence provisions.

This was previously known as the ‘Safe at Home, Safe at Work’ program funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, and included research in the education and health sectors to establish the effects of domestic and family violence on employees and their organisations. The methodology and findings have since inspired similar research projects in Canada, New Zealand and the U.K.

Currently around 1.6 million Australian employees are covered by domestic and family violence clauses in their Enterprise Bargaining Agreements or Awards. The Northern Territory Government also has workplace supports to employees affected by sexual violence.

  • 2001

Reviewed literature examining the links between gendered violence and work as part of the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse publication series.

Contact us

Shabnam Hameed
Senior Researcher/Manager, Gendered Violence & Work
Gendered Violence Research Network, UNSW
Phone: +61 2 9385 4886

Paula Bennett
Gendered Violence Research Network, UNSW
Phone: +61 2 9385 2991

Is domestic violence a workplace issue? Is domestic violence a workplace issue? Watch this recent interview on ABC’s The Drum

Shabnam Hameed from the Gendered Violence Research Network discusses domestic violence and its effects on the workplace.

Watch the video