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How to make the workplace a safe space for victim-survivors of family and domestic violence

Key takeaways 

  1. Make sure your employee has the flexibility and support they need to stay safe.
  2. Ensure your employee is aware of any extra support available to them.
  3. Familiarise yourself with any safety concerns to the impacted employee or other staff.
  4. Understand your work health and safety obligations.

If you have an employee who is experiencing family and domestic violence, one of the best things you can do as an employer is ensure they feel safe and supported in the workplace environment. Work health and safety duties also apply. 

So, what can support look like?  

  • Allowing additional rest breaks as needed. 

  • Having regular wellbeing check-ins with your employee – remember, your role here is within a work relationship.

  • Fostering an environment where employees feel confident that disclosing a family and domestic violence situation will not result in adverse consequences for them or their employment. 

  • Providing assistance with arrival and/or departure from work – that could mean offering secure parking where possible/practical, support with taxis to or from an agreed location, or paying for cab charges.

  • Implementing appropriate security arrangements where a protection order has identified the workplace as a prohibited space. That means: 

  • ensuring the perpetrator is prohibited from entry to the workplace, with key staff notified confidentially (after gaining consent from the employee) 

  • establishing a process in the event the perpetrator presents to the workplace or calls and requests contact with your employee. 

  • Offering flexible working arrangements - that could mean a change of hours, or a change of work location (noting that working from home may not be a viable or safe option).  

  • If you engage an employee assistance program, making sure it has specialised family and domestic violence capabilities.  

If you are concerned that there is an immediate risk to a person’s safety, you should alert the relevant authorities. Remember, if possible, speak to the employee to get their consent first. Note: consent may not be possible, in which case safety is first priority. See Respecting privacy and confidentiality for more details.

Working from home 

With the increasing popularity for working from home, you need consider how to stay connected with employees and provide them with support.  

You cannot physically supervise an employee working from home, however it is important to organise regular check-ins, to ensure the employee feels safe and supported. 

If working from home is not a safe option, consider allowing the employee to work from an alternative location or allowing them to work from the office. 

Contact outside the workplace  

You may want to think about how you’ll communicate safely with your employee. 

Remember, they may be unable to communicate if they feel unsafe so it is worth discussing with the employee how they would like to be contacted, preferred times and preferred words/language which an employee could use to let you know whether they can attend work, need a reason to leave home or need immediate assistance. 

Avoid directly asking your employee about their situation as this may unintentionally place the worker at risk of serious harm. It is common for perpetrators of family and domestic violence to monitor the worker’s communication including emails, text messages and phone calls. 

In some cases, an employee may need to temporarily relocate to crisis accommodation for their own safety. Employees in these circumstances are generally prohibited from disclosing their residential location to anyone other than police and family and domestic violence specialist services and you may need to accommodate any temporary changes in address.  

Work health and safety obligations 

As an employer, you have obligations under work health and safety laws which require you to provide and maintain, so far as reasonably practicable, a safe and healthy working environment. 

Where an employee is experiencing family and domestic violence, you should consider how to meet your WHS obligations. 

For more information, see Safe Work Australia’s guidance on Family and Domestic Violence in the workplace. 

For further advice on family and domestic violence see 1800RESPECT or call 1800 737 732.

For further advice about your workplace rights or information about how to deal with workplace disputes, refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman or call 13 13 94.