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‘Pioneering’ Report Paves the Way in Tackling Domestic Violence

24 November 2016 at 10:39 am
Wendy Williams
Domestic violence is a workplace issue according to the Male Champions of Change (MCC), who have released a “pioneering” report offering an easy-to-use model for organisations who want to “step up on eliminating violence”.

Wendy Williams | 24 November 2016 at 10:39 am


‘Pioneering’ Report Paves the Way in Tackling Domestic Violence
24 November 2016 at 10:39 am

Domestic violence is a workplace issue according to the Male Champions of Change (MCC), who have released a “pioneering” report offering an easy-to-use model for organisations who want to “step up on eliminating violence”.

The joint report, Playing our part: Lessons Learned from Implementing Workplace Responses to Domestic and Family Violence, released on Wednesday, shares the progress made by 17 leading organisations and outlines the steps, processes and frameworks they found effective in tackling the issue.

As part of the push to tackle domestic violence the latest report also revealed the organisations, including Goldman Sachs, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank Australia, ANZ, Deloitte, ASX, KPMG Australia, Rio Tinto, Telstra, McKinsey and Co and the Australian Army, have reviewed their paid leave policies.

MCC founder and chair Elizabeth Broderick told Pro Bono Australia News it was time for business to step up.

“From where I sit, it will take every sector of the Australian community to remove domestic and family violence from Australia, so business needs to step up and do their bit as well,” Broderick said.

“The fact is up until now, business has been missing from the conversation and I think what is so important about the work that Male Champions of Change is doing, is that they’re not only recognising that domestic violence is a workplace issue but they are putting into action some really innovative strategies just to do two things; one is to support the survivors of domestic violence in the workforce, but increasingly… [it is] about understanding more about perpetrator behaviour and what appropriate intervention might be possible in that area as well.

“It’s really interesting, to give you a bit of background, I was recently in the United Nations, I’m the special advisor to the head of UN Women out of New York, and I talked about the work that Australia was doing with a number of global companies around the world and it’s clear that in this area of domestic violence as a workplace issue, Australia is really leading.”

Broderick said the latest report set a new benchmark.

“I think because it makes the case as to why it is a workplace issue, number one, but number two because it is a very easy to use model for organisations that want to step up on eliminating domestic violence, I think it will be widely received,” she said.

“Just this morning I had so many people say… not only was it a really moving session but it gave us the practical actions that we need to take, to make sure people are safe in the workplace and particularly women who are living in intimate relationships characterised by abuse that they have somewhere to go and that they can feel safe to disclose in the workplace.”

The report comes a year after the MCC, whose organisations collectively employ over 600,000 people, recognised they could not champion gender-balanced leadership without addressing domestic and family violence.

Broderick said the workplace can make a big difference when it comes to tackling domestic and family violence.

“I just think it is hugely important because for many women, the only place they might feel safe is their workplace,” she said.

“We know from the research that when a woman first discloses, should she make that courageous step, to step up and disclose in her workplace, the response she receives will determine whether she reaches out for support, so workplaces are absolutely fundamental to supporting survivors of domestic violence and also I think to help those who are perpetrators to find a mechanism to change their behaviour.”

Commonwealth Bank of Australia CEO Ian Narev said organisations certainly had a role to play in addressing the issue.

“It is an uncomfortable fact that large companies have victims and perpetrators of domestic and family violence as customers, employees and shareholders,” Narev said.

“We cannot simply accept that fact. Rather, we must accept our responsibility to play our part in changing it.”

In Australia, of the 1.4 million women who are or have lived in an abusive relationship, 800,000 are in the paid workforce.

According to the report, nearly half of those experiencing violence report difficulty getting to work, performance is impacted by employees feeling anxious, distracted and unwell, and violence can force people to take time off work, often without pay or by using personal leave.

KPMG estimates by 2021 this reality will cost Australian businesses $609 million a year.  

In 2015, the first Playing Our Part report proposed a three-part model of actions that organisations could take to reduce the prevalence and impact of domestic and family violence.

This second report, offers a framework of what organisations have found effective and includes case study examples of strategies employed by MCC organisations relating to employee assistance providers (EAPs) and managers, as well as organisational examples from Citi, the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank.

KPMG Australia CEO Gary Wingrove said the report accommodated for organisations at various stages of addressing the issue.

“Organisations are naturally at different points in both finding ways to address this very personal issue of profound gender inequality, and in bringing their workplace’s mindset along with them – Playing Our Part accommodates that,”  Wingrove said.

“It breaks this journey into three levels: initiatives and processes that have been learned for organisations that are ‘making a start’, but are unsure of the boundaries; those that are ‘getting  serious’ and starting to see organisational acceptance that this is a workplace issue; and organisations that have ‘integrated’ action throughout and are evaluating the effects.”

For organisations “making a start”, the MCC’s experience showed initiating communication about this issue in the workplace could be difficult.

But according to the report, “just starting the conversation” revealed that many employees had been impacted and had stories to share, assisting in wider workplace education.

Broderick said for any organisation that cared about a woman’s right to be safe in Australia, it is as simple as having a conversation.

“Yes of course by the time you get to stage three, there will be a number of actions, one of which will include the provision of paid domestic violence leave, but you don’t have to jump in there,” she said.

“You just start by having a conversation and helping your staff understand that domestic and family violence happens right here in Australia and that everyone of us can do something about it.”

According to the report, engaging external expertise was also pivotal, as was partnering with relevant EAPs.

Broderick said that as organisations “get serious”, reviewing policies and practices becomes vital.  

“For example, sometimes the support on offer needs to be made more explicit,” Broderick said.

“They found that manager training becomes integral because employees are more likely to disclose to a line manager than HR.

“Moreover, actions like simplifying leave approval processes and broadening the personnel who can approve leave are pivotal.”

She said paid leave, while it could be difficult for some smaller organisations, was very important.

“I think it is so important because there are additional costs that come with living in an abusive relationship, medical bills, legal bills, you know you may have to move house, you have to change schools, get new telephone number, whatever it is, all of those things have a financial cost,” she said.

“So if you can at least take a small period of leave to attend to those things it just takes some of the financial pressure away from women who are already living, in many circumstances, with extreme violence.”

The report said: “In almost all cases, new paid leave policies were required to meet aspiration for support.

“As a practical support, financial security can make the difference to whether a woman remains, escapes, or returns to an abuse relationship.”

Overall the report found that overcoming domestic violence required access to education, support and tools whether you were a victim, perpetrator or bystander.

Telstra CEO Andy Penn said everyone had the right to feel safe and free from violence.

“This is not the case for many women across the globe and for far too many in Australia,” Penn said.

“We all have a role to play to change this and workplaces that take steps will help change lives.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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