Steps to address workplace abuse

Domestic violence – what can the workplace do?

workplace-bullying-against-policy-sign-s-9271Every workplace can make a significant difference to the safety and well-being of victims of domestic violence and their co-workers by introducing domestic violence clauses into enterprise agreements. The following are recommendations of existing policies and procedures.

Step 1: Create a process to develop a domestic violence policy in the workplace
  • Include all relevant stakeholder: senior management, human resources, legal services, employee assistance programs, medical and safety programs etc.
  • Create a survey to identify how domestic violence affects your workplace
  • Train employee assistance providers to identify domestic violence and respond appropriately
  • Ensure that the employees are aware of the policy development process and have the ability to contribute meaningfully
Step 2: Identify key areas of responsibility
  • Assign responsibility for the planning and implementation of the program
  • Identify the safety aspects of the plan
  • Establish timelines and accountability
  • Maintain a database of incidents and incident outcomes for the planning assessment
Step 3: Develop a policy addressing domestic violence that contains:
  • A clear and concise definition of domestic violence with examples
  • A clear statement that domestic violence is unacceptable at home or at the workplace
  • A full explanation of the workplace entitlements covered by the domestic violence clause
  • A clear indication where and how staff can access detailed procedures regarding domestic violence and the workplace
Step 4: Developing procedures for implementing the clauses/ entitlements, ensuring they include:
  • Details of the first point of contact for employees needing support
  • The role of key personnel in liaison with domestic violence specialists
  • The safety plans and procedures against domestic violence in the workplace
  • Confidentiality and support of workers when they disclose domestic violence
  • Guidance for how employers or other employees should handle disclosures of domestic violence
  • Information on relevant laws and police procedures
Step 5: Provide Training
  • Provide a range of training sessions in the policy and procedures of domestic violence in the workplace to all employers and employees
  • Train key staff in domestic violence identification and prevention in the workplace
  • Incorporate safety into basic training (eg. Do not share personal information to others)
  • Seek expertise externally from domestic violence specialists to ensure that the employee assistance providers can identify domestic violence and respond appropriately
Step 6: Distribute the policy and build awareness
  • Produce compact, easy to read versions of the policy and provide to all staff members
  • Include the policy in the workplace on the organisation’s website or induction materials
  • Display public education materials about domestic violence in shared areas (eg. bathrooms, kitchens)
  • Provide details of where victims and abusers can get help locally or using an anonymous helpline
  • Incorporate domestic violence training and information into existing safety meetings and policies
Step 7: Create accountability measures for abusers if they work in the organisation

Some perpetrators of domestic violence use workplace resources to harass or abuse their victims. This is a breach of workplace policy, which can result in a criminal offence or a breach of a domestic violence protection order. An effective employer response is important to prevent further damage or danger to the victim. Thus, care must be taken to protect the workplace safety and discipline the perpetrator

  • Available disciplinary options should be considered (eg. reporting the perpetrator to the police).
  • Conduct a detailed risk assessment if the perpetrator remains employed. Take particular care if the victim of the abuse is also an employee of the organisation.
  • Minimise the potential for perpetrators to use their position or work resources to find details of the victim (eg. monitoring access to certain computer programs or a change of duties).