If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, you can contact 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for family and domestic violence for advice.  

If a worker is in immediate danger, call 000. 

Family and domestic violence can become more frequent and severe during periods of emergency. Public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as self-isolation and working from home arrangements, may increase workers’ exposure to family and domestic violence. Financial pressures, increased stress and disconnection from support networks can also exacerbate the underlying conditions that lead to violence. 

What are my WHS duties?

You must ensure workers and others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety, including from family and domestic violence in the workplace. This includes where the workplace is a worker’s home. You must take a systematic approach to managing risk with the aim of eliminating the risk, or if this is not possible, minimising the risk so far as is reasonably practicable. In the event that it is not possible for the worker to be safe at home, an alternative work environment must be provided, so far as reasonably practicable. 

You have a duty to do what is reasonably practicable to ensure workers and others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety while undertaking work from home. You need to do what is reasonably practicable to identify the risks, such as providing a safe environment for disclosure, assuring confidentiality and not requiring workers to provide unnecessary personal details. But some risks might be outside your control, such as where a worker chooses not to disclose a risk of family or domestic violence or does not tell you that they cannot work safely at home. Workers and others at the workplace also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and not adversely affect the health and safety of themselves or others. This includes following any reasonable instruction given to comply with a health and safety duty. 

You need to identify hazards, assess the risks and control the risks.  

You must consult workers on physical and psychological hazards and risks in the workplace and on how to manage them before you make decisions in relation to your control measures. They will be best placed to know what the issues are and have ideas about how to manage them.  

Review how you are managing the risks to check your controls are working.  

How do I communicate with my workers about family and domestic violence?

Encourage workers to discuss with you any concerns they may have about their health and safety, as they may have important information that ought to be considered before work arrangements change (e.g. if they are working from home). Continued communication is crucial when your workers are working from home.  

Workers should be assured that any information will be treated confidentially and securely, to the extent possible and as required by law. 

If through these conversations a worker discloses to you they are experiencing violence, or you suspect they may not be safe at work, you can contact 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for family and domestic violence for advice. The Our Watch website also has a workplace guide for responding to disclosures of violence. 

If a worker or anyone at your workplace is in immediate danger, call 000.

What if my workers witness family and domestic violence?

 If your workers witness or see signs of family and domestic violence while undertaking work, you should contact 1800 RESPECT for advice.

Managing the risk of family and domestic violence in the workplace

Sometimes family and domestic violence will be a WHS issue. Family and domestic violence presents a work-related hazard if the perpetrator makes threats or carries out violence on a family member while they are at work, including if a worker’s workplace is their home.   

Workplaces can play an important role in preventing and responding to family violence by providing a safe and supportive working environment for all workers. You must: 

  • Communicate family and domestic violence as a workplace issue and develop workplace policies and procedures to address it. The Australian Human Rights Commission provides guidance on how you can do this. If you already have policies and procedures in place, they should be reviewed to ensure they are applicable in the current COVID-19 situation, particularly where workers are not in their usual workplace (such as working from home). 
  • Consult workers about work arrangements and managing risks to health and safety. Consider holding one-on-one discussions to ensure their needs, experiences and individual circumstances are considered and information is treated as sensitive and confidential.   
  • Assure workers of their right to confidentiality and support if they choose to disclose family and domestic violence. 
  • Communicate support which is available to workers, including Health and Safety Representatives and employee assistance programs. 
  • Provide all workers with education and training to raise their awareness of family and domestic violence, its potential effects in the workplace and how to manage risks.  
  • Communicate the availability of entitlements such as paid/unpaid family and domestic violence leave, flexible work arrangements and other entitlements which support workers experiencing family and domestic violence. 
  • Provide information about counselling, legal, health, financial and other family and domestic violence support services.  
  • Ensure workers supporting those who are experiencing family and domestic violence are aware of the support options available to them, including employee assistance programs.   
  • Provide a safe, secure and accessible reporting mechanism, including properly trained contact people within the workplace. 

Ensure workers are safe at work (when the workplace is not a person’s home)

  • If possible, ensure the building or workplace is secure and entry is controlled, e.g. through swipe card or pin code access. 
  • Visitors should be clearly identified to avoid accidentally allowing a person known to use violence to enter the workplace. 
  • Where possible, separate workers from the public. 
  • Consider flexible working arrangements, such as adjustments to working hours or work locations. 
  • Ensure communication and duress alarm systems are in place, where needed. 
  • Consider contact information screening, e.g. email, phone numbers, devices, internet profile. 
  • Develop and put in place procedures for an emergency response to instances of family and domestic violence in the workplace, including when to involve police. 
  • Ensure those in the workplace have a safe, secure place to retreat to in the event of an incident. 
  • Change work email addresses or phone numbers if instances of family and domestic violence have occurred through electronic or telephone contact. 

If a worker or people at your workplace are in immediate danger, call 000. 

If an incident occurs at the workplace, you should: 

  • ensure that everyone is safe 
  • provide first aid or urgent medical attention where necessary 
  • provide support where required, including psychological support to the victim and other workers 
  • depending in the circumstances, you may need to report what happened to Police on 131 444. 

You may also need to notify your state or territory WHS regulator if the incident is a ‘notifiable incident’ (see the Incident Notification fact sheet for more information). 

Working from home

Workplaces can be a place of refuge for workers experiencing family and domestic violence and a crucial source of social and economic support.  

The model WHS laws still apply if workers work somewhere other than their usual workplace, which includes working from home. Workers experiencing family and domestic violence may be placed at greater risk because of working from home arrangements. 

When instigating working from home arrangements, you must consult your workers on all relevant risks and offer support to manage these risks. Encourage workers to discuss with you any specific or individual concerns they may have with respect to their health and safety, or the impact any proposed control measures may have on them. This is particularly important for workers experiencing family and domestic violence because they will know the most about their personal circumstances and may have important information that ought to be considered before work arrangements change.  

If the worker has disclosed family and domestic violence, consider developing or adjusting their safety plan for working from home in consultation with their treating medical practitioner or health professional (if available). For more information on safety planning, contact 1800 Respect.  

What you can do to minimise risks at a worker's home will be different to what you can do at the usual workplace. You should: 

  • Maintain regular communication with workers. Avoid directly asking about the worker experiencing family and domestic violence about the violence as this may unintentionally place the worker at risk of serious harm. It is common for perpetrators of family and domestic violence to monitor their partner’s communication including emails, text messages and phone calls. Offer general support and consider establishing a safety word or phrase to enquire about the worker’s welfare and whether they require immediate help.  
  • Appoint a contact person in the business that workers can talk to about any concerns.  
  • Provide continued access to an employee assistance program or other support programs. 

If working from home isn’t a safe option for the worker, consider alternative arrangements that you can make to support them, for example working from an alternative location or allowing them to work from the office. 

Family and domestic violence leave

Under national workplace laws, workers dealing with the impact of family and domestic violence can: 

  • take unpaid family and domestic violence leave 
  • request flexible working arrangements 
  • take paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave, in certain circumstances. 

Some workplaces may also offer paid leave for workers experiencing family and domestic violence. 

You can find information about supporting workers experiencing family and domestic violence in the Fair Work Ombudsman Employer Guide to Family and Domestic Violence

What about confidentiality? 

It is important that workplaces develop supportive environments in which workers feel safe to discuss family and domestic violence issues.  

To create an environment where workers feel confident to talk about their experience of family and domestic violence, you should be able to demonstrate that such information will be kept private and confidential. Confidentiality is important because workers may not be willing to talk about their experience without knowing it is confidential. 

Any information about a worker’s experience of family and domestic violence is sensitive and confidential. Workplaces should take all reasonable steps to ensure any information disclosed by workers regarding family and domestic violence is kept confidential and secure. Consider how you will sensitively treat personal information to protect a person’s right to privacy (e.g. in the context of existing hazard and incident reporting systems). Disclosure should be on a need to know basis and only to maintain safety. Where possible, disclosure should only occur with the express consent of the worker. If information is mishandled, it could have adverse consequences for the worker, including serious injury or harm. Discuss with your workers how this information will be handled. 

Family and domestic violence in the workplace is a complex issue and you may wish to seek further advice from your employer organisation or a work health and safety and employment law professional.  

Other resources

If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, you can contact 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for family and domestic violence for advice.  

If a worker is in immediate danger, call 000. 

For some workers, the COVID-19 pandemic might lead to a greater exposure to family and domestic violence, or the level of violence increasing.  

Family and domestic violence becomes a WHS issue if the perpetrator makes threats or carries out violence on a family member while they are at work, including if a worker’s workplace is their home. 

Family and domestic violence in the workplace is a complex issue. The free resources and services listed below may be able to assist you or you may wish to seek further advice from your employer organisation or a work health and safety and employment law professional.  

Your duty is to eliminate or minimise the risks in the workplace so far as reasonably practicable. This include physical and mental health and safety risks. 

Your duties extend to working from home arrangements. If it is not possible for the worker to be safe at home then an alternative work environment must be provided, so far as reasonably practicable. 

You must identify the risks so far as reasonably practicable. This means providing a safe environment for disclosure, assuring confidentiality and not requiring workers to provide unnecessary personal details. You or other workers may also notice signs of family and domestic violence.  

You need to consider when, where and how your workers might be exposed to violence and manage those risks.  

Some risks might be outside your control, such as where a worker chooses not to disclose a risk of family or domestic violence or does not tell you that they cannot work safely at home.  

Workers and others at the workplace also have a duty to take reasonable care of their own health and safety, and not adversely affect the health and safety of themselves or others. This includes following any reasonable instruction given to comply with a health and safety duty. 

Encourage workers to talk to you about any concerns they may have about their health and safety, as they may have important information that ought to be considered before work arrangements change (e.g. if they are now working from home). Continued communication is crucial when your workers are working from home.  

If through these conversations a worker discloses to you they are experiencing violence, or you suspect they may not be safe at work, you can contact 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for family and domestic violence for advice. The Our Watch website also has a workplace guide for responding to disclosures of violence. 

If a worker is in immediate danger, call 000. 

Check that your controls are working and whether there is anything more you can do to prevent violence and harassment from happening in your small business.  

What if my workers witness family and domestic violence?

If a worker or anyone at your workplace is in immediate danger, call 000.

If your workers witness or see signs of family and domestic violence while undertaking work, you should contact 1800 RESPECT for advice.

Managing the risk of family and domestic violence in the workplace 

Your small business can play an important role in preventing and responding to family violence by providing a safe and supportive working environment for all workers.  

Ensure workers are safe at work (when the workplace is not a person’s home) 

  • If possible, ensure the building or workplace is secure and entry is controlled (e.g. pin code access). 
  • Where possible, separate workers from the public, especially if working alone or at night. 
  • Consider flexible working arrangements, such as adjustments to working hours or work locations. 
  • Consider contact information screening (e.g. email, phone numbers) and change work email addresses or phone numbers if instances of family and domestic violence have occurred through electronic or telephone contact 
  • Have procedures for an emergency response to instances of family and domestic violence in the workplace, including when to involve police. 
  • Ensure those in the workplace have a safe, secure place to retreat to in the event of an incident. 

If a worker or people at your workplace are in immediate danger, call 000.  

If an incident occurs at the workplace, you should:

  • ensure that everyone is safe 
  • provide first aid or urgent medical attention where necessary 
  • provide support where required, including psychological support to the victim and other workers 
  • depending in the circumstances, you may need to report what happened to Police on 131 444. 

You may also need to notify your state or territory WHS regulator if the incident is a ‘notifiable incident’ (see the Incident Notification fact sheet for more information). 

Working from home

Workers experiencing family and domestic violence may be placed at greater risk because of working from home arrangements. 

Your WHS duties still apply if workers work somewhere other than their usual workplace, such as working from home.  

When organising working from home arrangements, talk to your workers about risks and offer support to manage these risks. Encourage workers to raise any individual concerns they may have about their health and safety, or the impact any proposed control measures may have on them. Workers experiencing family and domestic violence will know the most about their personal circumstances and may have important information that you need to consider before work arrangements change.  

For more information on safety planning, contact 1800 Respect.  

You should maintain regular communication with workers. But avoid directly asking about the worker experiencing family and domestic violence about the violence as this may unintentionally place the worker at risk of serious harm. It is common for perpetrators to monitor their partner’s communication including emails, text messages and phone calls. Offer general support and consider establishing a safety word or phrase to enquire about the worker’s welfare and whether they require immediate help.  

If working from home isn’t a safe option for the worker, consider alternative arrangements that you can make to support them, for example working from an alternative location or allowing them to work from the office. 

Family and domestic violence leave 

Under national workplace laws, workers dealing with the impact of family and domestic violence can: 

  • take unpaid family and domestic violence leave 
  • request flexible working arrangements 
  • take paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave, in certain circumstances. 

Some workplaces may also offer paid leave for workers experiencing family and domestic violence. 

You can find information about supporting workers experiencing family and domestic violence in the Fair Work Ombudsman Employer Guide to Family and Domestic Violence

What about confidentiality? 

To create an environment where workers feel confident to talk about workplace risks from family and domestic violence, you should demonstrate that information will be kept private and confidential. 

Disclosure should be on a need to know basis and only to maintain safety. Where possible, disclosure should only occur with the express consent of the worker. If information is mishandled, it could have adverse consequences for the worker, including serious injury or harm. 

Other resources

If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, you can contact 1800 RESPECT, the national counselling service for family and domestic violence for advice.  

If a worker is in immediate danger, call 000. 

Family and domestic violence can become more frequent and severe during periods of emergency. Public health measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, such as self-isolation and work from home arrangements, may increase workers’ exposure to family and domestic violence. Financial pressures, increased stress and disconnection from support networks can also exacerbate the underlying conditions that lead to violence. 

What if I witness family and domestic violence at the workplace?

If a worker or anyone at your workplace is in immediate danger, call 000.  

If you witness or see signs of family and domestic violence while carrying out your work, you should contact 1800 RESPECT for advice.

Talk to your employer

Workplaces can play an important role in preventing and responding to family violence by providing a safe and supportive working environment for all workers. 

You should discuss with your employer any concerns that you have about your health and safety so your employer can manage those risks in the workplace. If you choose to disclose that you are experiencing family and domestic violence, your employer must treat this information confidentially.  

It is particularly important to talk to your employer about any concerns you have if you are being asked to work from home. If your home is not safe, you should tell your employer as they must provide alternative working arrangements so far as is reasonably practicable, such as working from a different location or allowing you to work from the office. 

Who else can I talk to?

If workers at your workplace are represented by Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) you may wish to talk to them about your concerns. In addition, if you are a member of a trade union or employee association, they may also be able to help you. 

Family and domestic violence leave 

Under national workplace laws, all workers dealing with the impact of family and domestic violence can: 

  • take unpaid family and domestic violence leave 
  • request flexible working arrangements 
  • take paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave, in certain circumstances. 

Your employer may also offer paid leave if you are experiencing family and domestic violence. 

You should speak to your employer about your leave entitlements or contact the Fair Work Ombudsman on 13 13 94. 

WHS duties

Your employer has a duty to ensure that workers and others are not exposed to risks to their health and safety, including from family and domestic violence in the workplace.  

You also have a duty to take reasonable care of your own health and safety, and not adversely affect the health and safety of yourself or others. This includes following any reasonable instruction given by your employer to comply with a health and safety duty. 

Other resources

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