As an employer, you have many responsibilities. Aside from running your business and meeting your financial obligations, it’s important that you also take care of your employees. After all, your employees are your business.
To start it’s important that you create a company culture that builds a sense of trust and cohesion. But it’s more than that, it’s about being aware of your employees, their wellbeing and their mental state.
While it is not the role of an employer to go beyond a business relationship, being aware of changes in behaviour or demeanour can help in identifying potential issues.
The awareness of domestic violence occurrences in Australia has increased dramatically over recent years. It is finally being recognised as a highly serious and widespread issue across Australia, with considerable impacts being felt throughout our communities.
Reports have found one in four women in Australia have experienced domestic violence, but these statistics are flawed as it is also known that domestic violence cases are under-reported.
Whilst both men and women can be subjected to domestic violence, the majority of abusive and violent behaviour that is reported occurs in the home and is committed by men against women. The big picture is that domestic violence is the leading contributor to death and disability among Australian women aged 15-44 years old. . The impact of this violence is far reaching and has enormous individual and community impacts plus social costs.
Domestic Violence and Employment
What is important for those experiencing domestic violence is that being able to work is essential, not just financially but mentally. Building themselves up through their work can give them the drive and the ability to change work patterns can give victims a sense of safety, empowerment and increased productivity.
What you can do
If you are aware that an employee is experiencing domestic violence, handling the issue can be incredibly challenging and it is not something that you can sort out in a quick meeting.
It is important that you have policies and procedures in place that contain documented guidelines for managers to follow on how to deal with domestic violence. As part of this process, employers should be aware of their legal obligations in respect of issues that touch on domestic violence as it relates to a person’s employment. The Fair Work website can offer guidelines as to your obligations and requirements.
The policies could also include safety measures to be put in place if or when required. It could mean that if an employee has not arrived at work by a certain time, a call to a relative or trusted person would be made to check on their well-being.
You could also consider providing flexible work arrangements to support them through the situation. This allows the employee the time, space and flexibility to make arrangements for themselves and/or their family to move forward.
Domestic Violence and Leave
From 1 August 2018, laws changed to give employees access to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year.
The leave can be taken by employees to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence. This includes (but isn’t limited to) taking time to:
- make arrangements for their safety or the safety of a family member;
- attend court hearings; and
- access police services.
Employees are entitled to the full 5 days from the day they start work (i.e., they don’t need to build it up over time). The 5 days renews every 12 months but doesn’t accumulate from year to year if it isn’t used.
Talk to your Team
Talking to your employees about domestic violence and the leave available will mean that your team know that this isn’t an issue they need to be dealing with alone. As an employer, you can give them the support they need to stand on their feet, deal with their problems and still be gainfully employed in a safe work environment.
For more information on this leave and how it works, please head to https://www.fairwork.gov.au/leave/family-and-domestic-violence-leave