The Importance Of Work In Providing Financial Safety For Domestic Violence Victims/Survivors

Updated: Oct 6, 2019

The security of work is a vital component for recovery for Domestic and Family Violence Victims/Survivors.

Whilst it is known that perpetrators often sabotage victim's employment with the intention of undermining financial safety and thereby exert further power and control over the victim, the real role of employers themselves in assisting survivors move towards Financial Safety and away from abuse is very unclear.

Fair Work legislated Domestic and Family Violence leave entitles all employees ( including part time and casual employees) to 5 days unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year.

Again, this puts the onus on the victim/survivor to fund the ongoing abuse while they endeavour to try and get help through the various 'frustrating' and overloaded avenues that are well discussed in other forums.

The other challenge to this is addressing the largely patriarchal values of many such companies who may 'let go' victims/survivors rather than help them rebuild their lives. Time and time again we at WOW hear of women who are dealing with the trauma of the abusive relationship with PTSD, Depression and more, making it difficult to actually sustain full time employment whilst juggling matters before family courts, magistrates courts, child protection and more. We hear horrible stories of Homicide Victims who must take leave from their employment with very little support other than 'legal entitlements.' Similarly, we hear of victims being terminated without pay as a result of perpetrators impersonating professional women in emails causing untold damage to lives, mental health and careers. Overlaying these immensely traumatic experiences for victims/survivors is the patriarchal behaviours of leadership of many of these businesses and systems towards the victim. It is therefore little wonder then, that we are seeing such poor economic results for women endeavouring to move forward after Domestic and Family Violence and Financial Abuse.

Employers do have a real role to play in working with survivors to ensure they are able to move forward with their lives. Our work and home lives thanks to technology are now forever intersected so it is common sense that employers must share in the burden of rebuilding lives.

As we move more and more towards a shared value economy this will likely go beyond the current industrial instruments available, but how long will this take, recognising the scale of destruction to victims/survivors lives now. It must become a whole of community responsibility and if the climate strikes are any indication by comparison of what is to come, then shareholders, stakeholders, customers and employees will in the future be demanding it.

This also raises significant access to work issues, in order to ensure survivors’ financial safety with work needed to generate sufficient income to enable a life of dignity. The work itself also needs to be of appropriate quality to support a life with dignity.

What further compounds financial instability is evidenced in studies that have shown that of those women in paid work, survivors of violence tend to earn less income than those who have not experienced violence. Survivors also do not enjoy many of the same conditions that other women in the workplace do (Moe & Bell, 2004).

In summary we must start mapping financial recovery for victims/survivors across the entire financial ecosystem to better support women reclaim their lives. Someone needs to own recovery and empowerment of women post Domestic and Family Violence. Prevention strategies of course are needed but on the ground resources for those impacted now must be strengthened and the financial sector itself has an opportunity to lead on the advocacy necessary to achieve this.

What Is Required?

Sufficient economic resources through:

  • Access to appropriate work

  • Access to well-paid work

  • Access to adequate social security protection.

The capacity to meet material needs including:

  • Housing costs (rental or ownership)

  • Essential services

  • Food

  • Education.

The ability to retain this standard of living through life events, such as:

  • The loss of a job

  • Relationships

  • Having children

  • Retirement. 

The resources and capability to maintain this standard of living throughout their life course through superannuation. 

The capacity to absorb financial shocks and/or a sudden loss of income through:

  • Household economic resources

  • Access to credit, savings, insurance and financial information and support

  • Social security protection.

It is important to note that there is overlap with the categorisations and indicators. Measures such as access to social security, for example, are important to ensure adequate income and to buffer against financial shock. This further reflects the complex nature of financial safety and that economic safety for survivors is a series of inter-related factors which shape and influence outcomes.

Employers have a critical role to play in many of the above areas.

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