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Supporting staff: family violence leave policy considerations

This guidance will help your organisation identify appropriate content for a family violence leave policy, provide support to managers, and develop a workforce safety plan.

This guidance will help you identify appropriate content for a family violence leave policy, provide support to managers, and develop a workforce safety plan.

Download and print the PDF or read the accessible version:

1: What your organisation can do to support staff experiencing family violence

  • create a family violence leave policy
  • develop workplace support tools for managers
  • use workplace support plans
  • develop corresponding human resources policies and procedure

2: Focusing on staff care

Workplaces have a duty of care to maintain the health, safety and wellbeing of their staff.

Healthy workplaces improve workplace morale and engagement, reduce turnover and improve workplace relationships. This results in fewer conflicts and complaints [Heads Up 2018, Creating a mentally healthy workplace:a guide for managers].

Benefits of adopting a proactive approach to maintaining staff wellbeing include:

  • a healthier, more inclusive and flourishing workplace
  • a more engaged and motivated workforce with increased morale and sense of hope
  • better outcomes for clients, as practitioners are able to do their best work
  • improved team and workplace relationships and sense of belonging
  • lower sick leave taken, improved retention and lower turnover
  • improved relations between practitioners and management

Pillar 4 of MARAM requires organisations to change culture through alignment activities. As well as responding to service users experiencing family violence, another way to achieve alignment involves supporting staff with a family violence leave policy.

You should also have policies and procedures to support your workforce when employees respond to family violence. Staff members may experience vicarious trauma, which is a common response to working with people experiencing trauma. Some people may be more susceptible depending on their own life circumstances. Vicarious trauma is not ‘burnout’, and your organisation should use a trauma-informed response to it.

3: Staff disclosures of family violence

An increased awareness, training and promotion of family violence response within your organisation may trigger staff disclosures of family violence.

Your organisation should be prepared to respond to disclosures when you deliver training and communications on family violence.

Victim survivor disclosures

Disclosing experiences of violence can be difficult. Believe the person and support them to make their own decision about what action they want to take. Employers must take staff disclosures seriously.

Perpetrator Disclosures

Perpetrator disclosures may lead to serious ramifications, such as criminal charges, the loss of current employment and future opportunities, and hostility from colleagues. Unemployment is an evidence-based factor that may increase the risk of a victim survivor being killed or almost killed. With such serious consequences, it is important that perpetrator disclosures are handled in a skilled and appropriate way.

4: Family violence leave policy

Family violence causes significant trauma to a victim survivor, which affects their ability to work. Victim survivors may worry about consequences if they try to remove themselves from the violent situation. This may include the perpetrator attending the workplace, or the person missing work to attend to housing and legal matters. Perpetrators of family violence may want to attend a behavioural change course or court dates, but be worried about losing their job if ‘found out’.

A strong family violence staff policy promotes an organisational culture that does not accept family violence in any community or culture.

‘Anjali Jana’ in her witness statement to the Commission discusses how she first made disclosures to her manager and how the support she received made a significant difference to the outcome for her.   

A fresh start with the help of my employer 

My employer has been so supportive, they did things like making sure I was never rostered on alone until my intervention order was in place, in case my husband turned up at work, so that I was safe. They have been amazing.’ 

The suggestions in this guide for a family violence staff policy are in addition to legal requirements such as those outlined on the fair work government website. There may also be industry or union standards which apply.

Organisations must ensure any family violence leave policy complies with legal and industry requirements.

What to include in a family violence leave policy

The following is a non-exhaustive checklist of information which could be included in a family violence leave policy:

  • definition of family violence consistent with MARAM and the Family Violence Protection Act 2008
  • impact of structural barriers and oppression, applying an intersectional lens to family violence
  • who is covered by the policy (i.e. permanent employees, fixed term employees, casual staff etc.)
  • what support the organisation can provide, which can include:
  • leave options (paid/unpaid, number of days, alternatives to family violence leave)
  • workplace support (referrals to support services, employment assistance programs, workplace support plan, change in working conditions for safety, any other appropriate measures)
  • how to apply for family violence and/or workplace supports – including who to disclosure to, where to disclose if uncomfortable disclosing to a direct manager, HR processes
  • what happens when a request is made and how decisions to grant leave and/or alter workplace arrangements will be made
  • evidence requirements (i.e. court orders, medical notes, statutory declarations – note evidence requirements should be kept to a minimum, given the trauma and stress already likely experienced by the victim survivor)
  • confidentiality – how the organisation will ensure the employee’s disclosures will remain confidential, when confidentiality may be overridden
  • reporting obligations – setting out the legal requirements an organisation has to report disclosures (i.e. Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005)
  • impact of family violence on performance and/or attendance – reaffirming that no adverse action will be taken against an employee where performance and/or attendance is affected by family violence
  • how a perpetrator’s use of family violence will be responded to by the organisation – whether leave is available (such as for limited purposes such as attended behavioural change activities), misusing work equipment or time to commit family violence
  • useful contacts – an appendix containing contact details of suitable support services
  • dispute resolution information
  • links to related policies or documents

5: Support for managers

Organisations should consider who within their organisation is most likely to receive disclosures of family violence (managers, team leaders, HR) and provide appropriate training.

Those receiving disclosures are likely to benefit from guidance and/or a toolkit on how to respond appropriately.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of things to consider including in a guide and/or toolkit for managers:

Essential foundational knowledge

Organisation information

  • building security arrangements and contact details, where applicable
  • summary of staff family violence leave policy
  • how to maintain staff privacy, confidentiality requirements and reporting obligations
  • where the manager can obtain further support if required

How to respond to disclosures:

  • conversation tips on how to engage with a victim survivor or perpetrator (see MARAM practice guide: responsibility 1 and MARAM practice guide: responsibility 2 – appendix 2: guidance on using the screening and identification tool).
  • a checklist of important considerations, including information for the disclosing staff member about privacy and confidentiality considerations
  • referral information (to be provided verbally or in writing) – see ‘Referral options’ below
  • screening tool or screening questions (see MARAM practice guide: responsibility 2) with outcome options for suitable responses

A workplace support plan – a template is available to download on the MARAM Resources website.

6: Referral options

Useful contacts and resources

The following list is not exhaustive and other agencies may exist that provide similar services. These resources may be included in a policy or workplace support plan.

Police

Emergency response (24 hours):

National 1800-RESPECT line

Provides national free advice and counselling for people experiencing family violence and professionals responding to family violence (24 hours):

Safe Steps

Victoria’s 24/7 Family Violence Crisis Response Centre.

Contact safe steps for specialist family violence risk assessment and safety planning, as well as information, referrals and access to crisis accommodation for those who need to flee their home. 

Phone and email (safesteps@safesteps.org.au) services available 24/7. Live web chat available 9am-9pm Mon-Fri.

The Lookout

An online resource where you can find information, resources and services aimed at preventing and responding to family violence:

Employee Assistance Program

Insert details of any employee assistance program relevant to your organisation.

Berry Street

Berry Street helps children, young people and families impacted by abuse, violence and neglect.

Berry Street provides a diverse range of services including therapeutic programs:

Beyond Blue

Information and support to help everyone in Australia achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live (24 hours):

Court Network

A voluntary non-legal court support service operating throughout Victoria and Queensland. The service provides support, information and referral to people attending court, and advocates for the needs of all court users:

Dardi Munwurro

Dardi Munwurro is a statewide Aboriginal organisation delivering a range of family violence, healing and behaviour change programs and services, to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma with Aboriginal men, their partners, families and communities, by empowering and inspiring individuals to heal the past, acknowledge the present and create a positive vision for the future:

Djirra (previously Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service)

Advice and assistance for Aboriginal women experiencing family violence now or in the past, including specialist wrap around legal services, case management and counselling, with cultural connection and practical support provided by the Koori Women’s Place:

Drummond Street Services

Supporting families and individuals with family support interventions, including women exiting prison:

Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Family Violence Services

EMH provides refuge and family violence support for all Aboriginal women and their children including Sistagirls, trans women and anyone who identifies as non-binary. We also support non-Aboriginal people with Aboriginal (ex)partners:

InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence

A statewide service that provides services, programs and responses to issues of family violence in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities:

Kids Helpline

Kids Helpline is a free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25:

Lifeline

Lifeline is a national charity providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services:

Men’s Line

A 24/7 telephone and online counselling service for men with emotional health and relationship concerns, including male victims of family violence and perpetrators of family violence:

No To Violence

No to Violence provides telephone counselling, workplace development and training, policy advice and advocacy to end men’s use of family violence:

Our Watch

Our Watch has been established to drive nation-wide change in culture, behaviours and attitudes that lead to violence against women and children:

Pets in Peril Domestic Violence Service

This service is provided by Animal Aid and Eastern Domestic Violence Outreach Service (EDVOS) and can assist in emergency situations. You must obtain a referral from a caseworker through EDVOS, an emergency housing program or a community health service:

Sexual Assault Crisis and Counselling Line

The Sexual Assault Crisis Line Victoria (SACL) is a statewide, after-hours, confidential, telephone crisis counselling service for victim/survivors of both past and recent sexual assault.

The Orange Door

A free service for adults, children and young people who are experiencing or have experienced family violence and for families who need extra support with the care of children:

Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA)

The Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency (VACCA) is a statewide Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) servicing children, young people, families, and community members.

VACCA provide more than 50 programs including for children and families, youth services, community support, family violence and justice support:

Victoria Legal Aid

Victoria Legal Aid can assist with free information about family violence intervention orders:

Women’s Legal Service

Phone advice and appointments available to women in Victoria who are in need of legal advice, information or referral, irrespective of income or assets:

Reviewed 07 July 2020

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