Your workplace approach to domestic and family violence
Are you aware of what your organisation can do to identify and respond to domestic and family violence (DFV)? We have the information and resources you need to get started and accelerate your preparedness.
One in four Australian women and one in 16 men have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by a partner.
These statistics are alarmingly high!
Your workplace plays a critical role in identifying and supporting your workers to navigate through and beyond DFV. Doing so will also minimise the impact DFV can have on your workplace and productivity.
In this blog, we talk to WorkHaven Co-Founder and CEO Jo Mason. Jo runs us through eight points you need to consider in a meaningful and relevant workplace approach.
1. A multi-faceted and individual-centred approach
Jo is a corporate leader who has worked in the corporate, government and community sectors. She has a lived experience of DFV, and she understands how important workplace support is to someone who is impacted.
“DFV is a very complex topic and there’s no one size fits all,” explains Jo.
“Sometimes people will want more formal support, like an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), or DFV leave, or flexible work practices.
“But for other people, they might just want someone they can talk to in the organisation about what’s happening without it being formally recorded.
“It’s essential that a staff member feels assured that their situation is kept confidential before they open up.
“A meaningful workplace approach needs enough flexibility so that employers can turn to the person that’s impacted, and say ‘What do you need?’
“We recommend having a guideline rather than a policy to allow for greater flexibility that responds to specific situations.”
“So, if I think about my situation, when I was going through DFV, while I was in the thick of it, I wouldn’t have wanted DFV leave, because then there would have been questions asked at home.
“But it would have been helpful to have it as I left my situation, so I could relocate, unpack, settle in, and then come back to work. Or, it would have been helpful to have it drip fed over time, so I could go to court, counselling, or other legal appointments.
“People need a range of different things at different times. What I needed initially was to have the confidence that I could share it with somebody at work so that they could understand that I had other things happening in my life.”
“There’s no one size fits all. Organisations need to be flexible in their approach and start by asking the person what they need.”
2. Organisation specific
“DFV is a sensitive topic and it’s something that can feel confronting to people,” explains Jo. “So, it’s really important that a DFV approach is put together in a way that is sympathetic to the organisation in the support options that are presented to impacted employees and the way these options are communicated.
“If you’re in a rural or remote area, the response that you’re going to develop will be different to if you’re in a metropolitan area. Because there’ll be different support services available.
“It’s also important to recognise that no one expects an organisation to go from zero to a hundred overnight. It’s about all the incremental steps that you take along the way.
“It’s about making sure they’re heading in the right direction, and they ultimately have a goal of taking a committed approach.”
3. Appropriate for all situations
“We need to ensure our language doesn’t assume that women are the only people who are impacted by DFV, or it only occurs within heterosexual relationships. We should also understand that DFV occurs in relationships beyond intimate partners – it can happen between parents and children, housemates and other relationships,” explains Jo.
4. An approach to victim and perpetrator
“We also need to consider how we provide support to those who are using violence. That doesn’t mean condoning this behaviour but it’s important to understand these people also need support to change their behaviour and attitude in order to end the cycle of DFV.”
“You can still communicate a zero-tolerance approach to DFV in the workplace while supporting people who are using violence to get the assistance they need.”
5. Think outside the Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
“Often people rely upon EAP to support people who are impacted by DFV. However, referring staff to specialist services may be a better option with support networks. So, it’s worth investigating this further to ensure you connect staff to relevant and meaningful support,” Jo advises.
6. Awareness and understanding
“In my opinion, the biggest power of DFV is the stigma,” says Jo.
“Essentially, somebody that’s impacted by DFV may keep it a secret because they feel embarrassed or shame, which arises from people not understanding DFV.
“To create a genuine shift, we need to accompany any approach to DFV with communications that engender awareness and empathy.”
“If there’s awareness and connection in the workplace then people who are impacted by DFV are more likely to recognise what’s going on in their lives and reach out for support.”
7. A connected culture
“Good communication also creates a connected culture,” explains Jo.
“If a bystander or colleague understands DFV and feels connected, then they’ll notice the signs of somebody that’s impacted, and they’ll reach out to support them.”
8. Support for crisis and beyond
“There’s emphasis at the moment around crisis support. And there needs to be because that’s what gets people to safety and ultimately saves lives,” says Jo.
“However, given that it takes, on average, several times for a person to leave their DV situation, we need to look beyond that crisis point.”
“If we don’t walk with them as they navigate through and beyond DFV then at those vulnerable moments, they may return to the abusive situation. We need to support them beyond crisis to rebuild their lives.
“DFV can impact all elements of a person’s life. Not just their intimate relationships, it might be where they live, the time they have with their children, their finances, their career, health and wellbeing, friendships, relationships with extended family, confidence, and mental health.
“These are all really significant parts of a person’s life. Plus, compound that with the trauma that somebody may experience after leaving their situation. That ongoing support is critical to get back on their feet and rebuild all those areas of their life that may have been impacted.
WorkHaven offers a 10-week online program that supports people to do just that.”