Family violence could be costing your business
Having a family violence policy in your workplace is more than just “the right thing to do”. It also makes business sense.
The information you need to put a policy in place is right here.
It is estimated that more than half a million New Zealanders are victims of family violence in New Zealand. More than 40% of these victims are in paid employment. Research shows it affects the engagement, productivity, workplace accident levels of employees.
The cost to business is significant. It was estimated to cost businesses $368 million annually in 2014. This is the cost in lost productivity, cover for sick days, and recruitment/retraining when victims are unable to keep working.
Your family violence policy and practices can make a difference to your bottom line. It can also help transform the lives of your staff. That’s because:
- The workplace is often the only place a victim feels safe. It provides a forward path to gain confidence and break the abusive cycle.
- A supportive workplace can help victims to take steps to become survivors. Continuing in paid work provides financial independence.
- Family violence is devastating to its victims. It also traumatises children, who can go on to become perpetrators themselves.
The cost to business is significant. It was estimated to cost businesses $328 million annually in 2014. This is the cost in lost productivity, cover for sick days, and recruitment/retraining when victims are unable to keep working.
Employees who are victims of family violence may:
- Be distressed, depressed, anxious, distracted and fearful at work.
- Need to take time off work (e.g. to attend court, seek medical attention, counselling, relocate or seek alternative accommodation, 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 their 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).
Employees 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.
- Need to take time off (e.g. to attend court or stopping violence programmes).
*Some businesses like The Warehouse Group describe perpetrators of violence as "users of violence". They believe the word perpetrator is stigmatising and will prevent employees seeking help to stop using violence. Your business will need to decide what terminology works best for you.
What’s your policy?
Set the policy that’s right for your business
Every workplace is different. You can establish a family violence policy that works for your staff and your business. Here are some things to think about:
Can you provide additional leave to employees who are victims of family violence? Some employers provide 10 days of paid leave a year to employees to go to court, to an appointment with the bank, children’s school, a doctor or counsellor or any of the things that need to be done in a time of crisis.
What flexibility can you offer when a staff member is worried about their safety at work? You might be able to change the employee’s work location or hours of work, change their work telephone number, remove their contact details from the staff directory, put a security guards on site, or offer safe parking options.
Can you offer paid leave to employees to help a family member or friend attending family violence-related appointments?
What help can you provide through EAP counselling or tools like a confidential phone line allowing colleagues to raise concerns if they feel a workmate is suffering?
Can you formalise your commitment by including clauses on family violence in Collective Employment Agreements and Individual Employment Agreements?
How will you keep employees’ disclosures confidential wherever possible? This makes it easier for employees to disclose domestic violence and helps ensure they’re not treated less favorably.
How will you deal with perpetrators (or “users”) of family violence in your workplace? For example, can they take either paid or unpaid leave for counselling or rehabilitation?
Getting it done
How long will implementing a family violence policy take?
It does not need to be a lengthy process. You can use the template on this website to build a policy that works for your business.
Should we seek external support when developing our policy?
Organisations like Women’s Refuge and Shine's DVFREE programme can offer support and training for your business. Organisations such as White Ribbon and Are You Ok have resources to help implement your policy well.
Who else should we think about when developing our policy?
Empowered and trained staff will be able to provide support to their colleagues, showing them where to find information to stay safe, where to go for referrals for counselling and how to apply for special leave.
Display resources in your workplace. You can get posters and booklets free from the It’s not OK campaign website
The booklet Good for staff – good for business is an excellent place to start.
Other resources – like a self-assessment tool and advice for managers and workmates – are available here.
You’ll find examples of training programmes and other tools in the “Resources and links” section on this page.
Talk to your local family violence organisations.
Many areas also have a family violence network where a range of community and government agencies meet to coordinate their response to family violence. The network coordinator is a source of information, resources and contacts.
Family violence organisations that can help employers with specialist resources and training packages are listed in a national directory.
If you would like to talk to the It's Not OK campaign team about your workplace, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Discuss your plans with key stakeholders.
It will help to have the senior management team, Board, influential staff, unions and possibly key suppliers and customers on board. Gauge their support and leverage this toolkit to enlist their help.
Some people may express concern that a policy of this type may be exploited, but this is not the experience of the businesses that have developed this toolkit.
Hold staff meetings
Follow up with a newsletter and other communications to explain what you’re doing and why. This can be helpful to get people in behind your efforts, and it creates opportunities for discussion. Let interested people join the working group that’s writing your policy.
Implement a family violence in the workplace policy in a way that is accessible.
Publish the policy. Use meetings and documentation to make sure everyone knows and understands the policy. Ensure that trusted ‘go-to’ people in the organisation are trained and everyone knows who they are.
Be ready for any immediate disclosures from people affected by family violence.
Be ready to implement your policy straight away. Make sure you have a list of local services that can provide help to your staff, so you know where to refer people. Keep all disclosures confidential.
Get all the resources you need to start developing a family violence policy for your business with the toolkit
The following people were a part of developing this initiative and will be able to answer any questions you may have as a business implementing your own family violence policy:
Matt Trent | Manager Social Responsibility, Fonterra | Matt.Trent@fonterra.com
Gina McJorrow | Senior Business Manager, Talent and Culture, ANZ Bank NZ ltd | email@example.com
Investing within the workplace to break the cycle of family violence (Suzanne Snively in National Business Review)
Productivity Gains from Workplace Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence (economic research commissioned by the Public Service Association)
Partner Violence and the Workplace - an issues paper (via the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse)