18 November 2021 posted by Recovery Partners

Content warning: This blog discusses family and domestic violence and working from home, it may be triggering for some readers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we work forever, with many businesses now adopting a hybrid working model between home and office.

But what happens when working from home isn’t safe because home isn’t safe?

Take a minute to consider those workers who experience domestic violence. It could even be happening to one of your colleagues.

How the term ‘workplace’ has changed

Employees experiencing family or domestic violence often rely on their workplaces to be a safe place to escape violence and a crucial source of social and economic support.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a worldwide overnight shift to work from home and many businesses had no choice but to adapt.

When an employee works from home, their home becomes a ‘workplace’ and is therefore part of the employer’s responsibility.

What is family and domestic violence?

NSW Police defines family and domestic violence as: Domestic and family violence involves an abuse of power, mainly perpetrated by men in an intimate partner relationship or after separating from the relationship.  It extends beyond physical violence and may involve the exploitation of power imbalances and patterns of abuse.

Family and domestic violence increased during 2020 and 2021

The Australian Institute of Criminology’s survey of 15,000 women in July 2020 on the effects of COVID-19 on domestic violence found:

  • Over 65% of women who experienced physical or sexual violence from a current or previous partner they lived with experienced this violence for the first time or experienced an escalation in the frequency and severity of this violence during COVID,
  • Over 54% of women who experienced coercive control from a current or previous partner they lived with experienced this abuse for the first time or an escalation of that abuse from February 2020.

How you can support your staff

  • Provide training to staff about family and domestic violence. There are many different training providers such as Australian Human Rights Commission.
  • Look out for out of character behaviours, including
    – Extremely anxious to get back to the office
    – Concerning background noises during video or phone calls
    – Inappropriate, offensive or abusive comments in the background
    – Text messages that are out of character
    – Frequently reporting in sick
  • Your work from home policy needs to include information about family and domestic violence and provide staff an opportunity to disclose anything.
  • Ensure staff members that any information they choose to disclose about experience family or domestic violence will always be treated sensitively and confidentially.

The main thing is to recognise out of character behaviour, or behaviour that may indicate they are being monitored, or that someone in their home is being disrespectful toward their work.

You may have heard the news story of a girl who was abducted and used a hand sign used on TikTok to secretly save herself. We hope you never need to use nor identify this hand signal but knowledge really is power and it changed this young girl’s life.

Domestic violence and working from home do not go together. If you think there are warning signs use the signs to begin a conversation. Don’t jump to conclusions, inquire sensitively about the worker’s well-being.

Help lines

If you are in immediate danger, call 000 for Police and Ambulance help if you are in immediate danger.

1800RESPECT

1800 737 732

This is a 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

Individuals can also access local support services and search the internet using Daisy, a free app developed by 1800RESPECT that protects user privacy.

Lifeline

13 11 14

Anyone across Australia experiencing a personal crisis or thinking about suicide can call 13 11 14, or text 0477 13 11 14 at night (6pm-midnight AEDT). Someone will help put you in contact with a crisis service in your state or territory.

Download our free poster below – How to respond to family and domestic violence in home based workplaces.

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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/