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How to help employees facing domestic violence

Employers must create a framework that respects privacy and offers flexibility to support employees who are enduring domestic violence, an HR manager said.

user iconMalavika Santhebennur 20 September 2023 Big Law
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Ahead of the Women in Law Forum 2023, software provider for the legal profession Practice Evolve’s Pania Newport underscored that while the government has provided provisions for victims of domestic violence who are in the workforce, it is critical for employers to implement a framework that offers additional flexibility for employees.

Her comments precede the forum in November, where she will participate in a panel session about how employers could cultivate a workplace that supports women facing a range of issues, including domestic violence and mental health and wellbeing issues.

Since 1 February 2023, employees at large or medium businesses (including casuals) have been entitled to 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave under changes implemented by the Albanese government.


Small businesses were given an additional six months to adjust to the change (given they may not have the same human resources capacity as larger businesses to arrange to administer the leave effectively).

From 1 August this year, small-business employees were given access to the same leave entitlements.

Flexibility for victims of domestic violence

However, Ms Newport urged employers to design a framework that allows their employees to take additional paid or unpaid leave or work flexible hours should they require it.

This is vital, she said, because it takes an average of seven attempts for a person to end an abusive relationship. Moreover, 52 per cent of women experiencing domestic abuse are in paid employment, which could lead to absenteeism and lower productivity, she added.

It is estimated that this costs the Australian economy $2 billion a year, while violence against women and their children costs the Australian economy an estimated $26 billion each year.

“This provides space and time for those employees to get out of those domestic abuse situations, while employers could suggest networks of support such as counselling services (including financial counselling for victims of financial abuse) and alternative accommodation options such as re-homing or short-term accommodation, or even recommend contacting the police,” she told Lawyers Weekly.

“But employees must remember that they don’t need to be experts at dealing with this. They just need to listen.”

Fostering a supportive workplace

However, Ms Newport cautioned employers to maintain privacy and respect the confidentiality of employees who disclose that they are facing domestic violence, especially because it is a difficult topic to broach as some may feel ashamed to vocalise their experiences.

Some employees’ offenders may appear at their workplace to harass them or use workplace resources and technological tools to coerce or control the employee, Ms Newport said.

“If organisations build an open culture and are supportive of diversity, equity, and inclusion, it will help employees have the confidence to disclose that personal information to their managers,” she said.

In addition to supporting victims of domestic violence, Ms Newport pushed employers to support employees who may be assisting someone experiencing domestic violence (including a friend or a co-worker).

“Any framework or policy should extend to employees who may be supporting someone else going through a domestic violence situation,” she said.

Ms Newport concluded that when employers champion an inclusive workplace that encourages individuals to seek support, “they can be the best version of themselves”.

“This means that they can do their best work,” she said.

To hear more from Pania Newport about how employers could support employees facing domestic violence, come along to the Women in Law Summit 2023.

It will be held on Thursday, 23 November 2023, at the Crown, Melbourne.

Click here to buy tickets and don’t miss out!

For more information, including agenda and speakers, click here.