14.3 Family violence is increasingly recognised as a significant and complex issue and one which is not simply a private or individual issue, but rather a systemic one arising from wider social, economic and cultural factors. Accordingly, effective measures to address family violence must operate in both the private and public spheres. This is particularly so in the context of employment, given that unless addressed at a systemic level, these same factors can affect the workplace, ‘with the effects of one sphere positively or negatively influencing the other’.
14.4 Two thirds of Australian women who report violence by a current partner are in paid employment. Research in the United States has indicated that between 50% and 74% of employed women experiencing family violence are harassed by their partners while at work. This illustrates the point made by lawyers John Stanton and Gordon Jervis that family violence ‘has no boundaries and doesn’t stop at the front door of the workplace’.
The effect of family violence on employees
14.5 Many victims of family violence face ongoing difficulties in gaining and retaining paid employment and in disclosing family violence where it may have an impact on their employment. For example, women who have experienced family violence generally have a more disrupted work history, receive lower incomes, and are more often in casual and part-time employment.
14.6 Where victims of family violence are employed, family violence may arise in the workplace in one of three commonly identified categories of occupational violence: ‘internal’ violence, ‘client-initiated’ violence, or ‘external’ violence. Internal violence refers to violence between employees within the same organisation, for example where employees work together in a family business or where a majority of residents in a particular area are employed by the same organisation. Client-initiated and external violence largely occurs in client-service based organisations that may provide ‘accessibility for partners or ex-partners to be targeted at their place of work’.
14.7 In brief, within these categories, family violence may present itself in the workplace in numerous ways, including by:
- stalking or harassing the victim at a place of work or making harassing telephone calls;
- actively undermining the victim’s work by hiding or destroying work property, such as paperwork or uniforms;
- promising to mind children, then refusing to do so;
- physically preventing the victim from leaving the house or preventing access to transport;
- where the victim works from home, interfering or preventing the victim from working; or
- using work time or resources to facilitate violent behaviour.
14.8 There may also be broader consequences, including:
- victim sleep deprivation, stress and reduced concentration affecting relations with colleagues and work performance and safety;
- effects on co-workers, including increased workloads due to absenteeism or dealing with disruptions such as harassing phone calls in the workplace; and
- in the most extreme cases, workplace family violence-related homicide.
14.9 As a result, family violence can affect workplace productivity, by absenteeism and staff turnover as well as, in some instances, employee and workplace safety.
The benefits of employment for victims of family violence
14.10 The traditional approach to family violence has focused on crisis intervention. Increasingly however, there has been recognition of the impact of family violence in an employment context and on the benefits of employment for people experiencing family violence.
14.11 Employment may afford victims of family violence a measure of financial security, independence, confidence and, therefore, safety. While some evidence suggests that victims of family violence may experience higher levels of abuse when they initially gain employment, employment is a key factor in enabling victims to leave violent relationships, providing longer-term benefits associated with financial security.
14.12 The importance of financial security and independence through employment has been emphasised by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick:
The primary way the majority of us lay the foundations of our economic security is through participation in paid work. We must develop better workplace responses to domestic and family violence to ensure that women can stay attached to the workforce. Doing this will mean three things. Firstly, we will protect women’s financial security in the immediate term—women will be less likely to lose their job in a period of crisis. Secondly, if we can keep women attached to the labour market, we will better protect their economic security in the longer term—they will be less likely to live in poverty in their twilight years. But thirdly, and most importantly from an employer’s perspective, individual businesses will be better able to prevent the unnecessary loss of talented staff.
14.13 As a result, in considering safety in the context of employment law, the ALRC acknowledges the role that financial security and independence through paid employment can play in protecting victims of family violence.
The social and economic cost of family violence
14.14 In addition to the negative effects of family violence on employees and the benefits of employment, family violence also generates an enormous economic and social cost, with broader implications for employers and the economy.
14.15 As outlined in Chapter 1, family violence is projected to cost the Australian economy an estimated $15.6 billion in 2021–22. In 2004, it reportedly cost the corporate and business sectors over $1.5 billion through direct costs. Where family violence affects employees in the workplace, or leads to them leaving employment, individual employers face costs associated with:
- absenteeism, including administration costs;
- decreased productivity;
- recruitment following staff turnover—estimated as 150 per cent of an employee’s salary annually; and
- training for new employees and loss of corporate knowledge.
14.16 The employment law system in Australia is premised on the need to provide a balanced framework that promotes labour market engagement, economic productivity and social inclusion. In light of the enormous social and economic costs of family violence, and the high proportion of victims of family violence who are employed, ensuring the employment law system appropriately identifies, responds and addresses family violence, is central to achieving these aims.
 S Murray and A Powell, Working It Out: Domestic Violence Issues in the Workplace (2008) 1, referring to J Swanberg, T Logan and C Macke, ‘Intimate Partner Violence, Employment and the Workplace. Consequences and Future Directions’ (2005) 6 Trauma, Violence and Abuse 286.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Personal Safety Survey, Catalogue No 4906.0 (2005), 11, 34.
 L McFerran and R Braaf, ‘Domestic Violence is a Workplace Issue’ (Paper presented at Balance Brings Everything to Life Conference, Sydney, 11 September 2007) referring to Family Violence Prevention Fund, The Workplace Guide for Employers, Unions and Advocates (1998). Note, in light of the lack of available statistics in Australia, the comparative US statistics are used for illustrative purposes.
 J Stanton and G Jervis, ‘Domestic Violence and the Workplace’ (2010) (7) National Safety Magazine 36.
 M Costello, D Chung and E Carson, ‘Exploring Pathways Out of Poverty: Making Connections Between Domestic Violence and Employment Practices’ (2005) 40 Australian Journal of Social Issues 253, 256; S Franzway, C Zufferey and D Chung, ‘Domestic Violence and Women’s Employment’ (Paper presented at Our Work, Our Lives National Conference on Women and Industrial Relations, Adelaide, 21 September 2007).
 S Murray and A Powell, Working It Out: Domestic Violence Issues in the Workplace (2008), 3.
 Ibid, 4.
 See, eg,: L McFerran and R Braaf, ‘Domestic Violence is a Workplace Issue’ (Paper presented at Balance Brings Everything to Life Conference, Sydney, 11 September 2007); A Moe and M Bell, ‘Abject Economics: The Effects of Batterings and Violence on Women’s Work and Employability’ (2004) 10(1) Violence Against Women 29. See also Australian Services Union Victorian Authorities and Service Branch, Submission CFV 10, 4 April 2011.
 See, eg: L McFerran and R Braaf, ‘Domestic Violence is a Workplace Issue’ (Paper presented at Balance Brings Everything to Life Conference, Sydney, 11 September 2007); C Reeves and A O’Leary-Kelly, ‘The Effects and Costs of Intimate Partner Violence for Work Organisations’ (2007) 22 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 327.
 This may result from the threat that employment poses to the power and control exercised by those who use family violence—referred to as the ‘backlash hypothesis’: S Franzway, ‘Framing Domestic Violence: Its Impact on Women’s Employment’ (Paper presented at Re-Imagining Sociology Conference, Melbourne, 20 December 2008).
 S Potton, Pathways: How Women Leave Violent Men (2003), 71.
 See, eg: M Costello, D Chung and E Carson, ‘Exploring Pathways Out of Poverty: Making Connections Between Domestic Violence and Employment Practices’ (2005) 40 Australian Journal of Social Issues 253.
 E Broderick, ‘Launch of Domestic Violence Clauses’ (Paper presented at Launch of UNSW Domestic Violence Clause, Sydney, 15 April 2010).
 In terms of the overall economic impact of family violence, several key studies have been conducted estimating the total annual cost of violence against women by their partners. While the focus of the studies has been on women, the results are also useful to indicate the enormous economic impact of family violence more broadly. See, eg, National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, Background Paper to Time for Action: The National Council’s Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, 2009–2021 (2009), 43. KPMG, The Cost of Violence against Women and their Children (2009), prepared for the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.
 See, eg, Victorian Community Council Against Violence, Family Violence is a Workplace Issue: Workplace Models to Prevent Family Violence (2004).
 ADFVC, Why Domestic Violence Entitlements Makes Economic Sense: The Economic Costs of Domestic Violence on the Workplace, referring to Australian Human Resources Institute, ‘Love ’Em don’t Lose ’Em: Identifying Retention Strategies that Work’ (2008) 2(1) HR Pulse 1.
 ADFVC, Why Domestic Violence Entitlements Makes Economic Sense: The Economic Costs of Domestic Violence on the Workplace. For US research see: C Reeves and A O’Leary-Kelly, ‘The Effects and Costs of Intimate Partner Violence for Work Organisations’ (2007) 22 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 327.