Lunch time talk on “Domestic violence - workplace response: In the interest of safety, productivity and employment sustainability in Australia”

A GENDER initiative, with the participation of Ms Ludo McFerran, Project Officer at Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse, Sydney, Australia

In her opening remarks, Ms Jane Hodges, GENDERs Director, pointed out that ILO is focussing on violence at work and gender based violence with unabated attention and referred participants to the new working paper on Gender-based violence in the world of work: Overview and selected annotated bibliography. Ms Hodges also reminded that the ILC 2009 Conclusions on gender equality at the heart of decent work instructed ILO to research and assist in the collection of data and use collective bargaining to address gender-based violence.

The connection and linkages between the issue of domestic violence and the workplace were raised; whoever is subjected to violence at home is going to be affected at work, psychologically and/or physically, and work performance will be impacted. Also mentioned was the growing interest by employers’ and by workers’ organisations and governments to support workers who are affected by this form of violence.

Ms Ludo McFerran, Project Officer at the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse in Sydney, presented facts and figures on family violence and impacts on employment situations, including performance and safety. She introduced the project – Domestic violence workplace: rights and entitlements – that seeks to reduce the impact of family violence on working women by achieving better workplace rights that support them to stay safely in their jobs and in their homes. Various means are employed to achieve this including: briefing unions and employers on the issue of family violence as a workplace issue; the adoption of family violence provisions in enterprise agreements; developing model workplace information and training resources; producing model policies and safety plans; and surveying union members.

Ms McFerran provided examples of clauses used in enterprises to support victims of family violence, including entitlements to special leave days for employees experiencing such violence. The need to balance between confidentially concerning the victims and the necessity to provide a safe work environment to all employees was debated, and the key role played by trade unions and employers organizations was highlighted. The need to provide assistance not only to victims but also to perpetrators of violence as well as other related topics – such as violence against domestic workers – were also discussed.

The lunch time talk was well attended; mostly by ILO colleagues, but also by staff members of Public Services International (PSI). Among others, Mr Greg Vines, Minister Councellor at the Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations and newly elected Chairperson of the Governing Body for the next 12 months.