- In the 2008/09 financial year, the cost of intimate partner violence to the Australian economy overall was estimated to be $13.6 billion.
- If no preventative action is taken, this cost is projected to rise to $15.6 billion annually by 2021/22.
$456 million of this $15.6 billion will be borne by employers and $609 million will be borne in productivity losses.*
Corporations can no longer ignore the impact domestic abuse is having on their business.
Whilst it is hard to ignore the financial impact, the costs of domestic abuse in the workplace go much further than economic cost. The costs extend to corporate culture. Employees are increasingly looking to work with companies that have a nurturing culture. We have witnessed businesses embrace mental health and work place bullying policies and provide the training and education needed to create an environment where real change is possible.
There is no denying that domestic abuse has a negative effect on productivity, staff retention and ultimately the bottom line. It is time to stop and look at what domestic abuse is doing to the culture of an organisation and the effects it is having on the work environment for its key players.
The code of silence
Imagine for a moment being a department head. You have a strong suspicion that one of the people who report directly to you is being subjected to domestic abuse. But there are no policies in place and you’re not sure you should bring it up. This is a cultural code of silence.
The code of silence in most workplaces around domestic abuse has an impact on the mental health of the person being abused, their managers and their colleagues. The manager in the example above will be unwilling to seek advice because they do not know how the person they suspect of being abused will be perceived within the company. The colleagues of the person being abused are probably also aware of what is going on and themselves unwilling to speak up for the same reason.
Breaking the code of silence
If a company has clear policies and procedures relating to domestic abuse and the training to ensure employees were aware that not only is there a policy in place but that theirs is a culture of support, this would be hugely beneficial not only for the person being abused but for their colleagues as well.
I know for myself when I was working in corporate I had a manager who wanted to help. My manager did as much as they could given the restriction within the code of silence. I know first-hand that if a domestic violence policy and training had been in place, I would not have left corporate and they would have retained a key employee.
Work and home life continue to merge and the lines are more fluid. It is no longer a case of home life being separate from corporate life; the two have become so intertwined that one will always affect the other, so corporations have an obligation to step up. It is time for them to ‘Lead The Way’, accept corporate responsibly and create not only the policies and training, but also a corporate environment that says we are not going to tolerate abuse in any form in an engaged ethical way.
*National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, The Cost of Violence Against Women and Their Children (2009). Human Rights Commission