November 18th, marks White Ribbon Day 2022, and this year’s theme, ‘Together We Are Stronger’, is a time to come together and start a conversation about practical solutions to end men’s violence against women and children.
The United Nations defines violence against women as, “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women”. This can include intimate partner violence, sexual violence, workplace sexual harassment, gender equality, gender equity, and gender- based discrimination.
Workplaces hold an important role in providing safe environments for women, driving social change and eliminating men’s violence against women. As such, the increasing need among workplaces to address and prevent violence against women can be seen through these alarming statistics.
The prevalence of violence against women remains high with a number of women experiencing violence in their workplace.
- More than 60 per cent of women report experiencing some form of violence at work .
- 1 in four women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace 
- 75 per cent report experiencing unwanted or unwelcome sexual behaviour at work .
- 94% of employees agree that leaders should be educating their workforce about respectful relationships 
The impacts of violence against women
Violence against women affects a women’s wellbeing and can have significant impacts on their physical and mental health. This can include experiencing trauma, stress, anxiety and depression. It may also result in injuries, reproductive health problems, insomnia, chronic pain, and in some instances death. At work, this can result in difficulties maintaining work performance, employment and financial stability.
Violence against women also has a range of negative impacts on workplaces, including higher rates of absenteeism, loss of productivity, reduced employee morale and job satisfaction, and increased staff turnover.
Population groups most at risk
Women most at risk of experiencing violence include those aged 18-24 years, women during pregnancy, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Workplaces where women are over-represented in employment are at higher risk of experiencing client-induced violence . Industries with higher junior representation of young women may be at higher risk of sexual harassment in the workplace .
The role of workplaces
Workplaces play a critical role in preventing violence against women in the workplace. Workplaces have a legal obligation under WHS laws to manage health and safety risks of workplace violence and aggression. Workplaces need to provide a safe working environment and safe systems of work that address, manage and eliminate violence against women in the workplace. In alignment with the Australian National Plan to End Violence against Women in Children 2022 – 2023, workplaces should set out actions across prevention, intervention and recovery that takes a holistic approach across the continuum.
Prevention: Addresses the underlying causes of violence to stop it before it starts
- The promotion of gender equality in the workplace – Gender inequality is an underlying determinant that can cause violence against women. Research highlights greater inequalities between men and women increases the risk of violence against women. Workplaces can support progress towards gender equality through providing equal opportunities and outcomes for men and women such as equal pay for work, equal participation in the workforce, access to leadership roles regardless of gender, and elimination of discrimination on the basis on gender.
- Policies and procedures – Implementing policies and procedures that proactively supports equality amongst women and men, addresses gender equity and violence against women. Nurtures a culture that promotes inclusive, respectful, and safe workplaces where women can work free from violence and abuse.
- Leadership training – Providing training for leaders on best preventing and responding to violence against women can equip them with the necessary skills to recognise the warning signs, start a conversation and support someone they know, or suspect is experiencing violence.
- Staff training and awareness of respectful behaviours – Training staff on appropriate and inappropriate behaviours can work to promote non-violent norms and make change by positively influencing attitudes around violence against women both inside and outside of the workplace. Promoting healthy relationships can also eliminate violence against women through training in communication, conflict resolution and decision making.
Intervention: Identifying and supporting individuals who are at high risk of experiencing violence. Works to stop violence escalating and prevent it from reoccurring.
- Improving access to resources and systems of support for individuals who may be at high risk of experiencing violence – Employee Assistance Programs provide free counselling services that can provide mental health support for those high risk of experiencing violence.
- Crisis support – Responding to incidents and supporting victim survivors experiencing violence.
- Supporting victim survivors – Workplace can provide support and resources to victim survivors to help them recover from trauma and the impacts of violence to their mental health and wellbeing. This can help to reduce the risk of re-traumatisation.
- Recovery in the workplace – Workplaces can provide assistance and support, as well as financial security and independence. Remaining in the workplace while recovering can support an employee’s overall wellbeing.
If you are experiencing violence, know that there is support available. 1800 RESPECT is a 24-hour national counselling service that you can call if you are at risk of, or experiencing violence and need assistance.
For more information on taking a holistic approach to address and prevent violence in the workplace, the Centre for Corporate Health offer a suite of solutions to support your workplace. Visit our website.