Why family violence is a workplace issue
What happens at home can affect what happens at work.
While family violence may not at first appear to be a union or workplace issue, there is now international evidence that those with a history of family violence have a more disrupted work history, are consequently on lower personal incomes, have had to change jobs more often and are employed at higher levels in casual and part-time work than those with no experience of violence.
Those who are victims of family violence may:
- Be distressed, depressed, anxious, distracted or fearful at work
- Need to take time off work to attend court, seek medical attention, counselling or other support
- Leave their job because they are hiding from their abuser
- Have a protection order which could have implications for the workplace (e.g. the violent person cannot contact or go to the workplace)
- Have the ability to work sabotaged by the violent person (e.g. through damage to their car so that they are late for work or work taken home may be destroyed).
Those who are perpetrators of family violence may:
- Pose a risk to the victim’s colleagues
- Pose a risk to workers and clients in their own workplace
- Use work time and resources to harass, stalk and monitor their victim (e.g. calling the victim many times a day to control what they are doing)
- Have a protection order against them, which means that they are not allowed access to weapons (guns, knives etc.)
- Need to take time off to attend court or stopping violence programmes.
What can you do?
Union members can play an important role in leading change in their workplace and community, as well as helping victims and perpetrators. Some things you could do include:
- Put posters and leaflets around the workplace, including staff rooms and bathrooms
- Invite speakers to talk about family violence, positive parenting and healthy relationships
- Build family violence prevention messages into family-friendly events and projects
- Include information about family violence, and where to get help in your newsletters
- Link your websites, Facebook and emails with the It’s Not OK family violence information
Increase understanding and action
- Organise family violence awareness training for union members
- Use meetings to talk about how people can help if they know or suspect that a workmate is experiencing family violence
- Support some people to become family violence prevention champions so they can lead change in their area
- Connect with your local family violence network or services to get involved in their local family violence prevention activities and access training
Develop healthy policies
- Ensure clauses relating to support for victims of violence are included in employment agreements
- Ensure workplaces have a policy around what to do if someone knows or suspects abuse is happening (linked to Health and Safety and Staff Well-being policies)
- Ensure workplaces have contact people who have training in responding to family violence and harassment.
- Be ready when someone asks for help
- Look at the how to help information on the Its Not OK website www.areyouok.org.nz/friends_and_whanau.php
- Make sure you have a list of local services that can provide help, so you know where to refer people (you can also call them to find out what you can do as a helper).
Keep all disclosures confidential
- Think about the immediate practical things that may help victims such as allowing flexi-time or time off, relocating to a safe area not accessible to members of the public, alerting security guards, or having someone escorting them to their car.
- Take all threats of family violence seriously
- Call 111 if someone is in danger, even if you are not sure.