Family violence is destructive behaviour in an intimate relationship where one person tries to dominate and control the other. It includes a range of behaviours such as physical, verbal, sexual, emotional, social and financial abuse. For more information, read Relationships Australia's Safe from Violence booklet.
Family violence is associated with considerable financial costs to workplaces and the economy, in addition to personal costs to people directly affected. In the 2008-09 financial year, violence against women and their children was estimated to cost the Australian economy around $13.6 billion2. The direct costs to employers is estimated at $465 million2.
Family violence can have a severe impact on a person’s paid employment as a result of:
Women with a history of family violence have a more disrupted work history and consequently may earn lower personal incomes than women not affected by family violence3. Financial abuse is also a significant issue for women, with financial dependence or uncertainty often impacting a woman’s ability to leave the relationship4.
Despite these challenges, a workplace has the potential to be a separate and safe space, away from violence. Employment can also provide financial security and social contact and networks, which are important for a person’s wellbeing and may be critical for safety.
Family violence can also impact workplaces through:
A recent survey found that almost half of the employees who had recently experienced family violence discussed it with someone at work5. Furthermore, it was discussed with colleagues, rather than with supervisors, HR staff or union representatives. This research demonstrates how important it is for all employees to understand family violence and be able to talk about and respond to this issue in the workplace.
Discussing and asking questions about family violence, however, can be difficult. Often people are concerned about raising the issue of family violence, and what to say and do if someone identifies that they are experiencing family violence.
We know that not all people experiencing family violence disclose what’s happening. There are many reasons why people are reluctant to tell others what’s happening, including:
Indicators that someone is experiencing family violence can include:
It’s important to remember that leaving a violent situation is not easy. Someone may find it difficult to seek help or leave for a variety of reasons including that they:
If you think that a staff member may be experiencing family violence, you need to:
Some organisations may be able to make arrangements to support staff experiencing family violence, including family violence leave, flexible work times and ongoing emotional support.
Organisations may also need to put a safety plan in place which should include actions or procedures for a range of situations, for example, if the partner rings or turns up to the workplace.
For more information on family violence in the workplace and to develop skills in having these difficult conversations, you can attend our Responding to family violence in the workplace workshop.
Relationships Australia Victoria (RAV) is a community-based, not-for-profit organisation, with no religious affiliations. Our services are for all members of the community, regardless of their religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyle choice, cultural background or economic circumstances
We aim to provide high quality and comprehensive services that assist families and children to overcome challenges, grow and thrive.
For more information on our programs, locations and how to access our services, please visit our website or call 1300 364 277.
Download a PDF copy of this tip sheet here.