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Inside Retail – Deterring Domestic Violence

March 02, 2016

In Australia, one in four women has experienced violence from an intimate partner, whilst one woman is killed by her male partner every five or six days.

The retail industry has one of the largest female workforces in Australia, and is also one of the most gendered industries with almost 60% of employees being female. Females aged 18-24 are twice as likely as any other age group to be exposed to Domestic Violence. Given the retail industry is the largest employer of youth (15-24) in Australia, this has a significant impact on retail employers.

Domestic violence is often referred to as a private and community matter and that business has no role to play. Victims of domestic violence can be absent from work for approximately 18 days each year, with this absenteeism posing a substantial economic cost to businesses. Conservative estimates put the costs of domestic violence to business at $484 million per annum. Domestic violence also significantly impacts the capacity of victims to become financially independent and secure.

Unless effective action is taken to address domestic violence, the costs of productivity losses are expected to rise to $609 million by 2021-2022. These costs are traditionally associated with absenteeism, search and hiring costs, retraining costs, and lost productivity of victims, perpetrators, management, co-workers, friends and family.

The implementation of educational programs and policies to manage domestic violence provides direct benefits by increasing productivity and decreasing costs in relation to leave and staff replacement. Businesses also stand to benefit from improved employee retention and broader reputational benefits with the introduction of human resource policies, leave arrangements and other programs to support victims of domestic violence.

Businesses can be leaders in the campaign against domestic violence by:

Identifying domestic violence as a workplace issue
By creating an environment where employees feel they are able to discuss their experiences of domestic violence, businesses also send a clear message that abusive and violent behaviour will not be tolerated in the workplace.
Providing a supportive environment for victims and survivors of domestic violence
Some examples of organisations taking steps to support employees experiencing domestic violence include offering flexible working arrangements, special leave, the possibility of working in another location, providing support information through workplace training and induction.
Recognising and addressing abusive behaviour of employees
With violent behaviour often spilling over from home into the workplace, businesses can play an important role in recognising abusive behaviour in the workplace and facilitating behavioural change with the identification of appropriate programs and assisting people to attend those programs.
Providing education and training on domestic violence
By educating employees about how domestic violence affects the workplace, how to support affected by domestic violence as well as how to address and respond to abusive behaviours in the workplace, employers can take a leadership role and help to facilitate change.

From discussions with our members, it is evident that many retail businesses want to be proactive in this space and be part of an integrated response to domestic violence.

For more information on how your business can assist in reducing the prevalence of violence against women, contact the National Retail Associations trusted team of advisors on 1800 RETAIL (738 245) who have significant experience in providing HR and legal advice in cases of domestic violence which spill over into the workplace.

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