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In the news last week, we once again heard the tragic news of yet another domestic violence situation. For me this highlighted how much more work, together, we need to do to raise awareness and educate each other about domestic violence. Our prayers and thoughts are with all those impacted by domestic violence. #smallsteps4hannah
This follow up to our previous blog outlines the workplace responsibilities; and helps with workplace strategies to support and assist employees who disclose they are the victim of domestic violence.
Policy and Procedures
Have you updated your workplace policies and procedures to assist in supporting your employees? It is vital to have clear policy/procedures to help both employees and managers in the process of support. The following policies will assist with providing clarity during what can be a very stressful time for all involved:
- Leave Policy- inclusive of domestic violence approval processes
- Flexible Working Arrangement Policy – inclusive of options of workplace flexibility
Training and Awareness
Whilst having policies and procedures in place is a great first step, the real impact is when you provide training to your team. In the sessions I’ve organised and run, I’ve seen a significant increase in both the awareness of early warning signs and the workplaces ability to empathise and provide support to victims and their co-workers.
I would recommend providing targeted sessions for managers and supervisors; ‘first responders’ such as HR, OH&S and union delegates; and general staff. Training should focus on what is domestic violence and its impact on the workplace, employee entitlements, and your policy and procedures. Train key staff in domestic violence identification and prevention in the workplace.
You may also consider displaying education materials about domestic violence in accessible areas (e.g. kitchen, bathrooms, staff intranet, etc) and/or support events such as White Ribbon Day.
Workplace Legal Responsibilities
(Adapted from www.fairwork.gov.au)
As an employer, you need to be aware that the Fair Work Act provides minimum entitlements for employees. Of course, you can provide more than the minimum entitlements under your workplace policies, enterprise agreements and informally.
Under the Fair Work Act, employees dealing with the impact of family and domestic violence can:
- take unpaid family and domestic violence leave
- request flexible working arrangements
- take paid or unpaid personal/carer’s leave, in certain circumstances.
Unpaid family and domestic violence leave
Employees (including casual and part-time employees) are entitled to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each 12- month period. This leave:
- doesn’t accumulate from year to year if it isn’t used
- is available in full when an employee starts working at a new workplace
- renews in full at the start of each 12- month period of employment
- can be taken as a single continuous period or separate periods of one or more days.
Employers and employees can agree for an employee to take less than one day at a time, or for the employee to take more than 5 days of leave.
You have to take reasonably practical steps to keep any information about an employee’s situation confidential, which is often first received as part of an application for leave. This includes the leave records as well as any evidence provided by the employee.
You aren’t prevented from disclosing information if it’s:
- required by law, or
- necessary to protect the life, health or safety of the employee or another person.
You need to be aware that any information about an employee’s experience of family and domestic violence is sensitive. If information is mishandled, it could have adverse consequences for your employee including serious injury or harm. It is recommended that you work with your employee to discuss and agree on how this information will be handled.
Flexible working arrangements
As an employer, supporting workplace flexibility for an employee who is experiencing domestic violence is important. Under the Fair Work Act, employees experiencing violence from a family member or who are caring for a household member or immediate family member who is experiencing violence from the members family, have the right to request flexible working arrangements. To be eligible, employees must have worked with the same employer continuously for at least 12 months.
Flexible working arrangements examples may be:
- hours of work, such as working staggered start, finish or lunch times
- patterns of work, such as split shifts or job sharing
- locations of work, such as working away from the office
- duties, such as moving into non-public facing roles or temporary work assignments off-site.
A Safety Plan
During your discussions with your employee, you may need to consider if a safety plan is required. This safety plan will be developed in collaboration with the employee to ensure their protection whilst in the workplace.
A safety plan may include:
- Accompanying employee to their car when leaving work
- Notifying relevant staff, not to disclose private information about the employee’s movements
- Ensuring the employee is not alone in the workplace
- Providing a photo of the violent person to reception, so they can identify and call 000 if required.
A great starting point for information is the WorkSafe website: https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/addressing-family-violence-workplace. If you need support or advice in drafting or reviewing your documentation, conducting training or supporting an employee experiencing domestic violence, please contact me: [email protected]
If you or someone you know is experiencing violence and need help and support, please contact on the hotline numbers below:
- Call 000 for Police and Ambulance help if you or someone is in immediate danger.
- WRISC- Family Violence Support – 53 333 666
- Safe Steps- Family Violence Response Centre – 1800 015 188
- 1800RESPECT – 1800 737 732
- Lifeline – 13 11 14
- Mensline Australia – 1300 789 978
Emma Baldwin is a seasoned human resource business partner, who strives to build trust and respect in every workplace. As a generalist, Emma’s experience spans the full range of human resources including: compliance, mediation, investigation, conflict resolution, employee training and recruitment. Outside of work, Emma enjoys exploring the great outdoors, health and fitness, theatre productions and spending time with her young family.
Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.