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What can employers do to support White Ribbon Day?

November 25, 2015

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Today is White Ribbon Day, a day where the community is encouraged to reflect on the issue of domestic violence against women and asked to stand up and speak out for change.

Did you know that almost two-thirds of women who are victims of domestic violence in Australia are in paid employment? This equates to enough women to fill Sydney’s ANZ stadium … ten times over. Just picture that.

It is your issue

You might be wondering how a domestic issue is relevant to the workplace. The fact is, we all know home and work are not mutually exclusive, and positive or negative events that occur at either location will affect employees across the rest of the day. Matters that occur outside 9 – 5 cannot simply be compartmentalised and swept aside as a non-work related problem.

Domestic violence affects our society and economy on a vast scale. Right now one woman is killed every week as a result of domestic violence. It is the leading cause of death for women aged 15 to 45. And whilst it may seem insensitive to put a monetary figure on it, the truth is the cost of violence against women to the Australian economy is estimated to rise to $15.6 billion per annum in the upcoming year. Further, it has been estimated that the production-related costs of domestic violence will cost $609 million by 2021-2022 unless effective action is taken to address it, with employers expected to bear 39% of those costs.

In tangible terms, employees who are victims of domestic violence, are likely to exhibit declining workplace performance, poor concentration and performance and higher levels of absenteeism than their colleagues.

Be aware

It is not only the potential negative financial burden that makes domestic violence a notable issue for employers, there are also legislative requirements that you must take note of.

For example, did you know that the Fair Work Act 2009 gives victims of domestic violence the ability to request flexible work arrangements during the period of time they are effected by the violence?

Further, an employee who needs to provide care or support to an immediate family member or member of their household who is a victim of domestic violence may also make a request for flexible work arrangements under s65 of the Act.

Growing sentiment for change

There has been a continued push from different union groups and community lobbyists for additional domestic violence leave provisions to be included in the Act.

The claim that has been made with the Fair Work Commission is for an additional 10 days of paid leave for employees who are victims of domestic violence to provide them with time to attend court appearances, medical and legal appointments and make safety and relocation arrangements.

While the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has argued the extra leave would be a huge cost for businesses and that it may in fact have unintended negative results for female employees, the ACTU President Ged Kearney states that “it is not costly and in fact there are amazingly positive benefits for businesses to implement this leave for their employees.”

Despite the fact that additional changes are yet to be made to the Act employers and unions are clearly already looking at ways they can support employees who are victims of domestic violence. We have seen an increase in the inclusion of domestic violence leave provisions in recently negotiated workplace agreements, demonstrating the community’s commitment to change.

If you have a question about workplace entitlements for employees suffering from domestic violence you can contact your HR Assured advisor. 

About the White Ribbon Campaign

The White Ribbon Campaign is the largest global male-led movement to stop violence against women. It engages and enables men and boys to lead this social change. In Australia, White Ribbon is an organisation that works to prevent violence by changing attitudes and behaviours. The prevention work is driven through social marketing, the Ambassador Program and initiatives with communities, schools, universities, sporting codes and workplaces.

For more information about the White Ribbon Campaign you can visit www.whiteribbon.org.au.