Few would deny that domestic violence is a damaging issue that must be addressed. How many though, have thought of domestic violence as a workplace concern? Although almost two-thirds of women affected by domestic violence are in some form of paid employment, the home and the workplace are often seen as mutually exclusive.

Raising awareness that domestic violence is a problem that can affect the workplace as well as the home is a cause close to the heart of former Australian Human Rights Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick. In her 2012 address to the New South Wales EEO Practitioners Association Meeting entitled ‘Thinking outside the (family home) box: domestic violence as a workplace issue’ Commissioner Broderick urged Australian workplaces to approach the issue of domestic violence with “…pragmatism and common sense, acknowledging, when they do, that what occurs outside the workplace can also have an impact on what happens within it.”[1]

There can be little doubt that domestic violence affects Australian workplaces, regardless of where and when it occurs:

  • Domestic violence has the potential to affect a victim or survivor’s participation in the workforce, including their ability to find and retain employment, as well as their performance and productivity while at work.
  • Domestic violence can also occur during work hours. Nineteen per cent of respondents to the 2011 National Domestic Violence and the Workplace Survey reported that violence continued in the workplace through abusive phone calls, emails and the perpetrator presenting at the victim’s workplace.[2]

Combined with cost to victims and their families, domestic violence has a cost to business. It has been estimated that the production related costs of domestic violence will amount to $609 million by 2021-2022 unless effective action is taken to address it, with employers expected to bear 39 per cent of those costs. Additionally, without adequate mechanisms in place to foster a supportive work environment, employers can be inadvertently compounding the harms of domestic violence for the sufferer.

[1] Elizabeth Broderick. 2012.”Thinking outside the (family home) box: Domestic violence.” Accessed July 30, 2015.

[2] McFerran, Ludo. 2011. Safe at Home, Safe at Work? National Domestic Violence and the Workplace Survey. Accessed May 26, 2015.

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