Parents and kids need support
In the Advertiser this week, Business SA attested that SMEs would be overburdened should domestic violence leave become a new employee requirement.
As Australia’s only advocacy group for parents, The Parenthood wholeheartedly rejects that assertion and calls on Business SA to support the parents employed by SMEs that are affected by domestic violence.
With ABS data showing that small and medium businesses employ more than two thirds of Australia’s workforce, they collectively have a huge role to play in supporting those employees both during and outside of work hours. Those employees are not line items on a budget. They have lives outside of the workplace and employers have a role to play in ensuring that when those lives are affected by domestic violence, employees have the support they need.
According to a report by PwC in 2015, Domestic violence costs the economy $21.7 Billion per year. Yes, you read that right – billion with a B. Small or medium businesses are already ‘burdened’ by what happens outside of work. They already have employees who have missed work due to domestic violence, they just might not know it. They already have employees whose shame and fear are so overwhelming that they don’t say anything at work and thus don’t get the support they need to break the cycle. And it is quite literally killing them.
In a 2004 Office of Women report, it was estimated that 263,800 children were living with victims of domestic violence and 181,200 children witnessed domestic violence. 408,100 people were victims of domestic violence and 87% of those victims were women, with a similar number of perpetrators of which 98% were men. We do not live in isolation. Our employers and our neighbours and our schools and our doctors all form a part of a community, one that should look out for its members. We are outraged that a religious video would instruct that ‘men are permitted to hit their wives’, yet we attach equal outrage to the suggestion that we have a responsibility to assist fellow human beings when they are forced to confront that situation in their own lives? It makes no sense.
Businesses use the infrastructure that society has built –the schools that train their future employees, the roads, rail and ports that ship their goods. The social contract allows and encourages this so that businesses thrive and employ more people. Isn’t it only right that the social contract extends both ways?
Financial incapacity is a reason often given by survivors of domestic violence for why they couldn’t leave a perpetrator. A domestic violence situation seems preferable to potential homelessness and poverty for survivors and their children. Knowing that your employer couldn’t sack you for going to court to obtain an apprehended violence order might be the impetus and support that a survivor needs to break the cycle.
Business SA asserts that it is right that employees have essential rights at work. One hundred years ago, those ‘essential rights’ didn’t include safe workplaces or breaks or eight hour days. ‘Essential’ has evolved and changed over the years as have businesses and society. I think we have room to evolve in this space. The cost to parents and their kids of doing nothing is just too high.