Male Champions Of Change Launch Domestic Violence Policy For Workplaces

13/11/2015 12:42 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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What would you do if the woman at the next desk hung up from a phone call, turned to you and said: "I'm afraid of my partner"?

After all, 800,000 Australian women in the Australian workforce today are victims of family violence.

You'd be forgiven for not having an answer, it's not a simple question. But an organisation called Male Champions of Change insists in 2015 all employers must acknowledge domestic violence as a workplace issue and give their leaders and staff an adequate answer to that very scenario. And that's just the beginning.

The MCC, chaired by the recently-ex Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, on Friday released a report it commissioned from KPMG on how businesses can deal with the issue.

KPMG estimated that by 2021, domestic and family violence will cost Australian business $609 million a year.

They've written to the leadership of all ASX-listed companies urging them to consider policies such as the one Telstra adopted in November 2014.

Telstra's new enterprise agreement allows for an extra 10 days of paid 'domestic violence' leave per year, allowing employees time to deal with medical appointments, court dates and relocation demands.

Managers are also being trained to provide support for their staff in the form of flexible working arrangements and directing them to services.

So far 43 Telstra staff have used the program, and key to the take-up is that they don't need to provide proof to qualify -- their word is enough.

Katherine Paroz, who has driven the implementation at Telstra, said the organisation is learning as it goes and there were still people who did not feel comfortable speaking up.

"We are on a journey here," Paroz said. "Don't wait until everything is perfect."

Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, who was at Friday's launch, said the first reaction victims of family violence get from co-workers or employers is critical to their willingness to seek help.

"You're only likely to come forward when you've reached a crisis" Batty said. "It doesn't matter who you are, we are still as a society victim blaming, without always realising that we are."

Batty recounted hearing just two weeks ago of a Victorian doctor forced out of her job because her partner kept turning up at her workplace and her employer held her responsible.

She said while big companies can join invest resources in this initiative, cultural change all all levels of business was key, and even small businesses can support family violence victims if they have the right attitude.

Batty said the first port of call for victims of family violence should be to call the hotline 1800RESPECT.

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