Family, domestic and sexual violence is a major health and welfare issue that occurs across all ages, socioeconomic and demographic groups but predominantly affects women and children.

Violence against women is a widespread global problem that occurs at an alarming rate, with 1 in 6 Australian women having been subjected to some type of violence at some point since the age of 15.

And sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with the subsequent lockdowns, unemployment and financial stress have caused domestic violence cases to surge in both numbers and severity across the country as more and more women are forced into isolation with partners or family who jeopardise their safety and wellbeing.

The latest data from the Australian Institute of Criminology reveals that almost 1 in 10 Australian women in a relationship has experienced domestic violence during the pandemic alone, and also notes a surge in financial abuse.

In fact, the United Nations refers to the issue as a ‘shadow pandemic’, explaining that while lockdowns, social distancing and stay-at-home orders may be crucial in limiting and preventing the spread of coronavirus, these same measures have had a devastating impact on women.

“While the world’s attention is focused on containing COVID-19, this other scourge is growing, exacerbated by the very measures put in place to mitigate the spread of the virus,” the United Nations has warned.

Despite the Federal Government’s $150 million additional domestic violence funding announcement in March last year, there still aren’t enough resources enough to be able to help everyone in need, leaving many Australian women with nowhere to turn to.

But this is where Randstad shines bright.

randstad stands up for women

As a long-standing business with a large female workforce (65%) and female dominance in managerial roles (over 50%), Randstad sends a strong message that it stands up for and generously supports all women who are subjected to violence.

We recognise that women may be in the position where they feel unsafe at home, and how that has worsened since the coronavirus pandemic shifted worldwide.

Meanwhile violence against women isn’t a topic broadly discussed and the ability to seek help can be made difficult of uncomfortable.

And this is why at Randstad, our industry-leading wellbeing program with a particular focus on support for women facing violence actively breaks down many of the barriers which might prevent victims of violence from reaching out for help and support.

what randstad offers

Randstad has recently made some changes to the support that we offer our employees who may be experiencing domestic violence.

Randstad’s new framework for supporting women suffering violence comprises the following;

  • 10 days of paid domestic violence leave
  • 10 days access to emergency accommodation for those who need to leave their home immediately
  • An employee assistance program
  • A resource toolkit for all staff and managers, including information, education, support and resources which is easily accessible through Randstad’s online intranet portal
an image of a blonde woman wearing a black coat over a white top smiling
an image of a blonde woman wearing a black coat over a white top smiling

Given it is challenging to get a handle on the size of the issue to a company like ours, as the topic is not often discussed or disclosed directly, we created a framework that goes above and beyond our obligation in that it gives employees access to a variety of help and resources in a way which is simple and easy.

Aside from victim support, our new framework also gives our managers and even other employees the tools to support our people if they ever find themselves in this situation.

We have also ensured that there are confidential avenues to seek support, which is traditionally a key barrier preventing victims from reaching out.

Now, instead of having the discussion and sign off from a manager, employees are able to directly contact the HR team for support as needed.

It’s as simple as one of our staff members reaching out to the HR team for either domestic violence leave or with help to organise some emergency accommodation. No fuss, completely confidential and no questions asked.

Meanwhile our resource toolkit, besides including information on education, support and resources, now even includes a guide for how to have the conversation about violence against women. This is offered to all of our employees because, in our view, you never know who a victim might reach out to.

The resource toolkit also challenges the conventional notions of domestic violence and highlights how violence against women could also happen in parent-child or even grandparent-grandchild relationships, not just partners. Domestic and family violence perpetrators and victims can look very different to the more traditional forms considered in the past.

This is particularly relevant due to the way the family unit is now structured, which is put into a high-pressure environment during the pandemic where people are spending intense amounts of time isolated in a way they wouldn’t usually be in any other situation.

workplaces are also at risk

Family and domestic violence not only affects a person’s ability to lead a safe and productive life, it also affects their families, children and the wider community.

When an employee is living in a situation where there is family or domestic violence, they often suffer from financial stress, isolation, vulnerability or even a sense of shame. And without the appropriate support, there can also be many implications for workplaces such as reduced productivity, higher staff turnover or unplanned days off.

In fact, according to Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman, the impact of family and domestic violence costs Australian employers $175 million annually in direct and indirect workplace costs due to things such as increased illness or absenteeism, possible legal liabilities, increased employee turnover and reduced productivity. It can also increase the risk of violence in the workplace. 

keeping women safe

Violence against women is sadly a worldwide issue that has only been exacerbated by the once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic. While the world focuses all its efforts on keeping our people safe and our lives protected by implementing compulsory lockdowns and social distancing measures, those same rules are forcing a worrying volume of women into a dangerous situation.

The reality is, for some of us, home is not a safe environment to live in.

This is why now, more than ever, organisations need to follow in the footsteps of forward-thinking and industry-leading companies such as Randstad and prioritise thinking about and implementing, ways to keep female employees safe.

Not only that but we need to be able to fully support anyone who finds themselves as a victim of violence at any point the need arises, both confidentially and without judgement.

And to do so effectively and quickly, before it’s too late.

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about the author
an image of a blonde woman wearing a black coat over a white top smiling
an image of a blonde woman wearing a black coat over a white top smiling

Felicity Empson

human resources director at randstad