Published by Inside Retail, Jo-Anne Hui-Miller
Last week, the National Retail Association (NRA) launched the Domestic Violence Retailer Support Hub backed by the Queensland government. The online initiative offers retailers webinars, podcasts, a hotline and other tools to help employers support their staff.
“There’s been a spike in domestic violence as a result of people being confined to their homes for such a long period of time due to COVID-19 and there have been people coming back to work because they’ve made a disclosure to their employers,” explained NRA CEO Dominique Lamb.
Domestic violence hotline 1800-Respect recently reported a 15 per cent rise in calls and 38 per cent increase in the usage of its online tool between March and April. According to the organisation, those two months were the second-busiest period it has ever experienced. Men’s Line has also experienced a 10 per cent rise in calls since the outbreak.
However, domestic violence is an issue particularly close to retail, given almost 60 per cent of employees are female and it is the highest employer of youth (18-24) in Australia, the demographics most likely to experience domestic violence. A report from the NRA in 2016 found that it costs the sector $1400 per case of domestic violence experienced by a staff member each year.
“With women making up more than half of the 1.2 million people employed in retail across Australia, there is a real need to equip businesses with the tools they need to address domestic violence,” said Queensland’s Minister for the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence, Di Farmer.
“Too many workers lose their jobs as a result of domestic violence. That number can be reduced if we work together to educate workplaces on how they can support their workers.”
Currently, the National Employment Standards states that all Australian workers, whether full-time, part-time or casual, are entitled to five days of unpaid leave to deal with the impacts of family and domestic violence. However, some retail businesses offer staff additional paid leave and other support.
“We think it’s incredibly important to provide support to team members experiencing family and domestic violence and we know it can cause real and sustained disruption to a team member’s personal and working lives,” Damian Zahra, Bunnings’ general manager of human resources, told Inside Retail.
In addition to up to 10 days of paid leave for those experiencing family and domestic violence, resources are also available to the Bunnings team to help them identify someone who needs assistance. All staff have access to free and confidential counselling services and conversations around mental health and wellbeing are actively encouraged, Zahra added. Staff may also have the opportunity to move to a different Bunnings site if required.
No longer a taboo
Family and domestic violence is not often spoken about in the community, but for staff to be kept safe and feel supported in the workplace, it needs to be openly discussed at all levels, said HR expert Richard Wynn from Compono. This culture then makes it possible for staff to comfortably approach their employer if and when necessary.
“Don’t hide behind emails and posters. Talk to people,” Wynn urged. “Raise awareness about domestic violence and its impact at work and don’t treat it as a taboo topic. Drive an agenda from the boardroom and throughout your organisation.”