Late November to early December sees 16 days of global activism commencing with the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (25th November) and concluding with International Human Rights Day (10th December).
Led by the UN Secretary-General and UN Women since 2008, the campaign responds to the reality that 1 in 3 women globally will face violence in their lifetime. The movement calls for global action to increase awareness, promote advocacy and create opportunities for discussion.
COVID-19 impacts family violence
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately further escalated this issue, which highlights the urgency for attention and action.
In Australia, extended lockdowns combined with increased isolation and reduced external support have led to reports that household violence including assault, sexual assault, threats, and control increased by between 10 – 15% across the various states and territories.
A study by the Australian Institute of Criminology also found that up to 10% of women in a relationship had experienced violence during the COVID-19 pandemic with two-thirds reporting the violence had either started or escalated during this time.
According to the 2020 Australian Human Rights Commission’s report into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces, sexual harassment continues to be a major issue, with women facing higher rates of harassment than men as well as higher rates of victim blaming when reporting occurs.
In recent years this has been brought into the spotlight through the #metoo movement and other highly publicised sexual harassment cases recently detailed by the ABC as part of a 4-part series highlighting the struggles of women on their road to equality in Australia.
This issue affects both men and women however, with the report finding that 39% of women and 26% of men surveyed had experienced sexual harassment in the workforce in the past 5 years.
Therefore, it is a societal challenge requiring a multi-faceted approach, shifting from a reactive model which requires complaints from individuals (often the victim), to a proactive model requiring positive actions and a culture of safety from employers.
Creating cultures of safety
Safe Work Australia recommends that strategies regarding the prevention and management of workplace sexual harassment, intimidation and bullying are integral components of an organisations approach to workplace health & safety (WHS).
Employers need to recognise the legal, moral, and ethical responsibility of providing a safe workplace for all employees and being a safe place for employees to turn if they are facing violence or harassment in their home or personal lives.
The most important factor in reducing violence and harassment directed at anyone is to foster inclusive and supportive cultures where senior leaders set a positive tone and a ‘no-tolerance policy’ is applied to toxic behaviours, attitudes, and actions.
Likewise, providing praise to those who promote positive, respectful, and inclusive behaviours will reduce the fear associated with victims coming forward and increase overall organisational integrity.
A review of learning and development programs on topics like identifying and understanding unconscious bias, the value of diversity and inclusion, and how bystanders can effectively intervene to stop inappropriate behaviour is also important to ensure that a holistic approach is taken to tackle these issues at an organisational and societal level.
In the workplace
At Six Degrees Executive, we are proud to say that a focus on diversity, inclusion and belonging is key to our culture and values. As part of our HR and WHS focus we have in recent years developed dedicated policies to cover Equal Opportunity, Bullying & Harassment as well as Domestic and Family Abuse. These policies cover a range of initiatives including victim and whistle-blower protection, flexible work arrangements, additional leave entitlements and safety planning and support.
In 2020, we also invested in several employees completing a Mental Health First Aid Certificate to ensure we have points of contact in each state that others can turn to for assistance and who have the skills to manage initial conversations, escalate within the business and direct to external support as required. In addition, we have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) intended for employees who face difficulties that affect their mental wellbeing and/or safety. In recognition of the need for greater support during the COVID-19 pandemic, our EAP program was extended to include family members to ensure we were recognising and supporting the additional stresses and pressures the pandemic was creating for families.
How we can help
As a leading Australian recruitment agency, we are firm believers in promoting equality in all that we do and are committed to making a positive difference to the lives of our employees, candidates, clients, and our communities.
If you are motivated to be part of the advancement of your organisation on these topics and require assistance or advice, please reach out. We work together on strategies and solutions to ensure safe and inclusive cultures for everyone to productively participate in.
If you require support: