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Half of SME owners suspect an employee is experiencing DV: how can you help?

A new survey shows more than half of Australian small business owners suspect one of their staff members is experiencing domestic violence.

The joint research by Domestic Violence NSW and My Business has been released to coincide with White Ribbon Day and shows 54.8% of small business owners suspected or observed one of their colleagues was experiencing domestic or family violence.

Controlling behaviour and emotional abuse topped the list followed by verbal threats and physical violence.

“We know domestic violence is a scourge on Australian society and this shows its huge impact in the workplace too,” says Phil Parisis, General Manager of Product and Sales at My Business, Australia’s largest business organisation.

“Worryingly, almost one in three business leaders didn’t consider themselves to be well equipped to help a domestic violence victim in the workplace or to manage the negative impact on the organisation itself,” says Mr Parisis.


“Given the statistics, it is likely there is someone you are working with that has been impacted by this abuse. Businesses have an important role to play in the response to domestic and family violence (DFV) and this means providing safe and respectful workplaces, promoting policies that contribute to gender equity, providing information and support to staff, and flexibility for staff experiencing DFV so they can remain engaged in the workplace. This should also include helping to provide dignity and financial independence to victim-survivors,” says Domestic Violence NSW CEO Delia Donovan.

“The survey also canvassed the impact domestic violence has on businesses as a whole with more than 40% of respondents indicating they’ve lost money because of it,” says Mr Parisis.

“The My Business survey highlights how crucial it is to equip managers, HR departments and, most importantly, staff, in safely responding to domestic and family violence disclosures. It’s also vital businesses have the right policies and practices to support victim-survivors. This is especially important with the introduction of 10 days paid leave next year where these conversations may increase,” says Ms Donovan.

“Together as a community, as businesses and as individuals we can provide support, reduce stigma and open the space for victim-survivors to feel safe to speak up,” she says.

1 in 4 Australian women have experienced domestic or family violence and on average one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner, but the survey shows more needs to be done when it comes to workplace education and having support programs in place for victims.

“My Business is committed to working with Domestic Violence NSW to support more businesses and equip them with the tools, resources and confidence to be able to respond to these issues,” he says.

A 2016 report* found DFV costs the business sector $1.9 billion a year in absenteeism and administrative costs.

“This survey shows it’s not just an issue that relates to the home, this is a workplace issue too. If a person is living with a DFV issue it will continue to impact them when they go to work,” says Mr Parisis.

The survey canvassed 400 business owners online during March and April 2022.

Domestic Violence NSW recommends the following 9 steps for employers to help victims/survivors:

  1. Provide a safe workplace that promotes respect and gender equity
  2. Provide opportunities for employees to disclose their experience of domestic and family violence and seek support, if they choose to.
  3. Avoid pressuring employees to talk about domestic and family violence if they do not want to
  4. Provide information for employees on where they can obtain help
  5. Protect the privacy of employees experiencing domestic and family violence
  6. Be flexible to support people experiencing violence to maintain their employment
  7. Recognise how difficult it can be for victims/survivors to leave an abusive relationship
  8. Recognise that the period leading up to and after a victim/survivor leaves can be the riskiest in terms of their safety
  9. Proactively learn about domestic and family violence, share information with employees and contribute to efforts to prevent violence and increase gender equity.

Source: Domestic and Family Violence in the Workplace, November 2022, conducted by My Business & Domestic Violence NSW.

*2016 KPMG Report – Cost of Violence Against Women and Their Children in Australia


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