Domestic and family violence is not confined to home – abuse can follow individuals everywhere, including to work.

Understanding and responding to domestic violence in the workplace is the focus of a three-hour workshop being held in Berri today as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.

Under the guidance of Dr Katrina Birchmore, Manager, Women’s Safety Strategy, Women’s and Children’s Health Network, businesses will be taught how to recognise and act on early warning signs of abuse.

A joint collaboration between Centacare’s Riverland Domestic Violence Service (RDVS) and Housing SA, the initiative is part of a local community push to widen the safety net for adults and children at risk.

RDVS Manager Sam McKay said one of the best ways employers can protect workers from domestic violence is to learn to recognise warning signs of abuse.

“Many people think domestic violence is a private matter which only happens at home, but abusive behaviours can infiltrate every aspect of a person’s life including their workplace,’’ she said.

“It is usually a pattern of behaviour and the level and type of violence used by a perpetrator to control, coerce and intimidate can escalate quickly.

“If employers pay attention to warning signs and know how to respond and who to refer people to for specialist support in their local community, they can help prevent serious harm.’’

Sam said victims were often particularly vulnerable at work because the perpetrator knew where and when to find them.

How to recognise an employee is at risk

Changes in a person’s appearance, personality, habits, work performance and behaviour can be indicators of domestic and family violence. Common warning signs include:

  • Changes in appearance
  • Wearing inappropriate clothing for the season to conceal injuries
  • Regularly arriving late to work or taking sick leave
  • Decreased work productivity, concentration and performance
  • Erratic behaviour
  • Unusually anxious
  • Keeps to themselves and ceases usual interaction with colleagues
  • Sensitive about their private life
  • Appears afraid or anxious after receiving some phone calls and messages

“Once a workplace knows how and what to look out for, they are able to act,’’ Sam said.

“It’s important they are aware. Women in general are probably more aware of what’s going on for other women because of female intuition.

“Men can see those signs as well but they might not want to pry or don’t believe it’s their place to say anything. But it’s important they act on their instincts if they have immediate concerns about someone’s safety.’’

How Centacare supports staff and volunteers

Centacare is leading the way in supporting workers and volunteers at risk of domestic violence.

In what is believed to be a state-first for non-government organisations in South Australia, Centacare has gone one step further than the minimum domestic and family violence leave requirement in order to assist workers to stay safe.

Employees can now access at least 15 days domestic and family violence leave each year, including upto 10 days paid and a from five days unpaid leave.

The updated leave entitlements are outlined in the Domestic and Family Violence Workplace Policy and Procedure, which was endorsed on February 25, 2019.

The entitlements follow a Fair Work Commission decision on August 1, 2018, to update all industry and occupation awards to include a minimum five days unpaid domestic and family violence leave per year.

Centacare’s policy extends to developing an accountability framework for perpetrators, and safety planning for those at risk.

“Centacare acknowledges that a supportive place of employment constitutes an important pathway for men and women to reduce the effects of domestic and family violence,’’ said Director Dale West said.

“Employment is critical to women’s financial security. It can provide a pathway out of being trapped and isolated in violent and abusive relationships, and allows women to maintain, as far as possible, their home, safety and standard of living.’’

The policy applies to all workers, including those who are experiencing or who have experienced domestic and family violence, and those who perpetrate, and is inclusive of volunteers and students on placement.

Full-time, part-time and casual staff with no pre-qualifying employment period can access the leave.

Except that volunteers can’t access paid entitlements