Workplace Strategies

Employers in Australia and internationally are becoming increasingly aware of the effects of domestic, family and sexual violence on their employees and organisations and are seeking ways to better support their staff. The Gendered Violence & Work team has extensive experience in developing tailored workplace strategies and tools to address this issue, for example:

  • Young woman in workplaceTrained in-house contact persons who can respond effectively to employees who are victims of – or allegedly perpetrating – domestic, family and sexual violence;
  • Provision or referral of staff to appropriate accommodation, counselling, medical, legal and protective services;
  • Safety planning including the use of flexible work arrangements and protection orders to maintain the safety of individuals, co-workers and the organisation;
  • Additional paid leave or flexible work arrangements for employees to attend to matters arising from domestic, family and sexual violence; and
  • Protection against adverse action and discrimination so that employees who are victims of domestic, family and sexual violence feel safe to come forward and access support.

Key considerations

During the development of these workplace strategies, we make sure that organisations take into account:

  • The need to balance the privacy of employees with the safety of the individuals, co-workers and the organisation;
  • The need to address performance issues while supporting employees who are victims of domestic, family and sexual violence; and
  • The need to align responses to employees who are allegedly perpetrating domestic, family and sexual violence with employment law and contracts, code of conduct and other organisational policies and procedures.

Implementation framework

We have designed the following 5-point framework to help organisations effectively mitigate risk and fulfil their duty of care, thereby enhancing employee productivity, safety and wellbeing.

Developing an evidence-based approach

Workplace strategies should be tailored to organisational and employee needs using information gathered through employee surveys and focus groups, and also adapted to the local context. Understanding what support is available (or unavailable) within the community is particularly important for organisations operating internationally or in regional, remote or multiple locations in Australia. In addition, the Gendered Violence & Work program has conducted an in-depth study of relevant international good practice which can be referenced as part of this process. This evidence should be established before an organisation starts developing and implementing workplace strategies and will form a baseline to evaluate effectiveness.

Ensuring accountability

Workplace strategies to address the effects of domestic, family and sexual violence need to include accountability mechanisms which ensure that:

  • Employees who are victims can access support;
  • Organisations respond appropriately to employees who are alleged to be perpetrators;
  • Policies and procedures are implemented without discrimination or bias;
  • Organisational responses comply with industrial, civil and criminal legislation, and any mandatory reporting requirements;
  • Employers are clear about their responsibilities; and
  • Policies and procedures are not underutilised or misused.

Addressing barriers to access

Workplace strategies in relation to domestic, family and sexual violence should address the needs of both female and male employees, and especially the most vulnerable – for example, employees with a disability; employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex; and those who face language and cultural barriers.

Respecting victims’ choices

Victims’ choices relating to their disclosure of domestic, family and sexual violence must be respected. Victims should also be involved in developing appropriate response because if they perceive that their privacy or autonomy will be violated, they are unlikely to come forward. As such, the role of the workplace is to provide a non-judgemental and supportive environment where the victim feels safe to disclose and is empowered to ask for support.

Educating the workplace

Information should be provided so that staff are aware of relevant and available support, as well as the employer’s commitment to respect victims’ choices and ensure a safe, non-judgemental environment. Workplace training should include information about domestic, family and sexual violence; its impacts on individuals, co-workers and organisations; and skills development of selected employees to effectively respond to workers who are victims of – or allegedly perpetrating – domestic, family and sexual violence.