Business leaders have a key role to play to address intimate partner violence as a workplace issue. When workplaces understand, recognize and respond to violence against women, women can continue to work and access the support they need, a UN Women report says.
With the support of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, UN Women is launching case studies showing how 14 diverse organizations across the Asia-Pacific region are addressing intimate partner violence as a workplace issue at an event for business leaders organized by UN Women Australia. ‘Ending Violence is Our Business: Workplace Responses to Intimate Partner Violence in Asia and the Pacific’ showcases the many roles organizations of all types and sizes can play in joining the movement to prevent and respond better to violence against women in the workplace and in their communities, and the benefits it can have for companies and organizations.
In Asia and the Pacific, the levels of violence against women remain unacceptably high. Over 37 per cent of women in South Asia, 40 per cent of women in South East Asia and up to 68 per cent of women in the Pacific have experienced violence at the hands of their partners.
Violence directed against women by their boyfriends, partners or husbands has devastating physical, emotional, financial and social effects on women, children, families and society. Intimate partner violence is not only harmful to women, it impedes economic growth and stalls societal development. Growing evidence shows that there are tangible economic benefits for companies that address all forms of violence including violence that occurs outside of the workplace.
Businesses are not immune to the grave consequences of intimate partner violence. The costs for businesses have been widely documented. Violence—both at home and in the workplace—ultimately results in lost productivity, absenteeism, isolation from co-workers, slowed career progression, and increased training and recruitment costs for employers. In Australia, domestic and family violence is estimated to cost Australian businesses AUD$ 609 million annually (US$ 416 million).
Aside from being the right thing to do, there are many compelling business reasons to invest in developing workplace responses to intimate partner violence. It supports women’s economic advancement and empowerment in the workplace – opening the doors for more talented, diverse, and safe workplaces. Workplaces can contribute to preventing violence against women by helping women stay employed so that they have more options to leave abusive relationships. The support provided by an employer can be the difference between an employee staying in an abusive relationship or taking action to address it. It also has benefits for businesses. Workplace responses are smart investments that can result in financial benefits for companies. Supporting survivors of violence to stay employed not only increases morale and productivity from employees who feel safe and supported but also reduces absenteeism, employee turnover and associated administrative costs.
An effective workplace response should encompass a range of measures, policies and procedures that help to create a positive and supportive work culture, and support and promote gender equality and zero tolerance to violence. As many of the case studies highlight, having a policy alone is not enough: a demonstrated commitment as well as financial and practical support, and a culture that encourages employees to access the benefits provided in the policy is also vital. Similarly, one-off training or self-paced courses have been shown to have limited impact, particularly when they are carried out in isolation from other workplace measures.
Training of workers, supervisors and managers to recognize and respond to intimate partner violence should be part of a comprehensive approach. Some of the promising practices showcased by the organizations in this report include gender and safety assessments, flexible work arrangements, paid leave, referral to support services and trainings and communication on the causes and consequences of intimate partner violence, and how to recognize signs and respond to disclosure of abuse.
These organizations identified leadership commitment as a key factor in the success of their responses to intimate partner violence. Regional Director of UN Women Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Mohammad Naciri, emphasized that, “While everyone has a role to play in eliminating all forms of violence against women, executives and board directors, senior leaders and managers across organizations are especially effective when they challenge behaviours and norms that perpetuate, accept or ignore violence and drive workplace cultures that prioritize equality and respect.”
To end violence against women and support women who experience violence, changing the acceptance of violence against women as a private matter is needed. This includes promoting a business culture that does not tolerate, condone or look away from any form of violence against women, whether it occurs inside or outside of the workplace, from sexual harassment to intimate partner violence, and holding all perpetrators accountable.
In sharing the lessons learned from organizations across the region, UN Women invites business leaders to commit to taking action to prevent and respond to intimate partner violence. If more business leaders commit to playing their part in ending violence against women in Asia and the Pacific, significant progress could be made in reinforcing the message that violence against women is never acceptable and support is available.
About UN Women
UN Women, or the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, works to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, to empower women, and to achieve equality between women and men.
About UN Women Australia
UN Women Australia is an Australian charity that exists to raise funds and advocate for UN Women’s work worldwide.