Behind The Front Door – At Work, At Home, At Play
Business Responds: Domestic Abuse Is Everybody’s Business Report 2020
Domestic abuse is a hugely destructive problem and we have a collective responsibility to tackle it. To this end, employers have an important role to play in society’s response to domestic abuse.
Employers already owe a duty of care to employees and have a legal responsibility to provide a safe and effective work environment. Preventing and tackling domestic abuse is an integral part of this.
Men, women and children all experience domestic abuse, and can also all be perpetrators of abuse. However, evidence shows that women are disproportionately affected by domestic abuse and the majority of perpetrators are men. It takes place at all levels of society, regardless of social class, race, religion, sexuality or disability. Individuals may experience abuse or be affected by it long after they have left their partner.
Following on from #cxbanks, we will now turn our attention to encouraging business collectively to address the issue from a world of work perspective. This is particularly relevant as work is no longer a set place, it can be performed anywhere and that puts work at the centre of homes, people, relationships that can no longer be compartmentalised.
To this end, we are working towards delivering an Advocates Report on Companies who are making headway and, those companies still to address Domestic and Family Violence and the intersection of the workplace in these issues.
We will examine how businesses - ASX listed companies are addressing the safety and wellbeing of their employees, customers and stakeholders impacted by Domestic Abuse.
Only through greater awareness, relationship building and the sharing of best practice can we make a systematic change to the way domestic abuse is thought about and handled. We believe that every employer plays an important part in that.
When employers demonstrate that they are aware of domestic abuse and make staff aware of the services that are available, this can help to reduce the wall of silence about domestic abuse that prevents many from seeking help.
Why Business Must Respond
It is often possible for those who use abusive behaviours to use workplace resources, such as phones or email, to threaten, impersonate, harass or abuse current or former partners. For others, the workplace can be a safe haven and provide a route away from harm. Also, having a job can provide the economic independence that helps people overcome their ordeal and rebuild their lives. Financial safety is critical to rebuilding lives. It is however important to note that employment can sometimes prevent people from leaving abusive relationships, as they may not want to go in to refuges or leave their area.
Colleagues may also be affected, and face direct threats or intimidation. They may have to cover for workers who are experiencing domestic abuse. Colleagues may be aware that abuse is taking place but not know how to help.
For example, having a workplace policy/guidance on domestic abuse sends a clear message that it is not tolerated inside or outside the workplace, and that the employer places safety and wellbeing of its employees as a priority.
Implementing an effective workplace policy/guidance could improve staff wellbeing and may help to retain skilled and experienced staff, and enhance the reputation of the business as a responsible employer.
In addition colleagues may also be affected, and face direct threats or intimidation. They may be frightened themselves and not know how to support a victim or help. They may also have to cover for workers who are experiencing domestic abuse. The one core thing employers should not do is victim blame and that takes a whole of organisation approach to understand how systems can break down and cause immense distress putting the mental health of the victim in further jeopardy.
An organisation’s response to domestic abuse begins with raising awareness and breaking down the stigma.
Australian Businesses Want To Help
Years of lived experience activism by Victims/Survivors of Domestic and Family Abuse and the bravery of Rosie Batty has aroused the Australian consciousness to understand that Domestic and Family Abuse happens across all levels of society and knows no bounds. But still the victim blaming persists.
Couple this with the continual public horror at the number of women and girls murdered on streets, in homes and, going to or home from work without any real government solution to the problem and you have an environment where business and the public must lead and demand greater action. More has to be done and it has to be a whole of society solution.
Our goal is to encourage business to step beyond paid leave and to address how they can collectively help.
The ‘Domestic Abuse Is Everybody’s Business Report 2020 will be a small step in this direction and hopefully a helpful resource for business. It is planned to be an annual review released each year ahead of International Women’s Day and will document the ways business is responding as a whole.
The report will grade companies across categories of their CSR practices and look to the social determinants of health to answer by way of example do they have appropriate:
Do they have policies and procedures in place
Are lived experience advocates on their team to co-design products and services to support Victims/Survivors rebuild their lives
What mental health support do they provide to employees impacted by Domestic Abuse
How does business engage with their extended business network, including suppliers and customers about their Domestic Abuse policies and procedures to support people at all levels of the supply chain.
How is business adjusting workplace design and safety for impacted employees
What monitoring & whole of organisation training is in place for the business' Domestic Abuse safety first programs
Is a senior member of the organisation responsible for addressing Domestic Abuse and are outcomes reported to the board
Are confidential systems in place to encourage disclosure and the provision of appropriate referrals and support
Are safety plans part of regular staff training
Does the organisation have adequate referral systems in place
Does the business provide emergency safe accommodation if necessary
What innovative programs does the organisation have in place or is currently researching
Is the business using CSR or a Shared Value approach to addressing Domestic Abuse and why? What has been the social impact to date
Businesses will be asked to complete a comprehensive survey and provide appropriate supporting documentation to validate and evidence claims. Businesses will then be graded A-F. The survey forms will be sent at the beginning of the #16daysofactivism on November 25 and business has until December 10 to return.
A group of lived experience advocates will meet thereafter to assess the submissions.
In compiling these grades, we will seek to engage businesses with the research process. Where businesses do not respond they will be graded based on publically available information on their CSR pcompanieolicies.
It will therefore be possible that many of these businesses are doing more than will be represented by these grades and we look forward to working with them to understand their practices better.
Along with the to be presented grades, the report will highlight significant gender equity issues faced in the various stages of the world of work, such as the importance of rebuilding financial safety and the steps companies are taking to support their employees and customers wellbeing.
In addition to comprehensive CSR policies and monitoring, we encourage businesses to support issue specific initiatives and financially pledge their ongoing commitment to these initiatives aimed at ending violence against women and girls. These pledges will form part of a business with heart gathering to be held in 2020, going beyond what businesses have to do, to what is needed to be done.