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Domestic violence feeds into the workplace

Domestic violence is directly linked with widespread productivity issues at thousands of Australian workplaces, a national workplace study has found.

Nearly a third of employees included in the 2011 study – many of them nurses - identified themselves as victims of domestic violence, with half of those reporting that violence in the home was having a serious impact on their ability to do their job.

The impact on productivity included everything from being tired and late for work, to abusive and threatening phone calls, emails and even physical injuries that prevented them from working.

About one in five reported that domestic violence continued at their workplace, with abusive partners showing up, unwanted and unannounced.

These findings from the "Safe At Home, Safe At Work" survey were released at a national workplace conference held in Melbourne in mid December.

Study author Ludo McFerran said the research shows domestic violence is clearly a workplace issue that employers need to address. "I think the survey demonstrates that this is already costing employers," she said.

"It's already having an impact on people attending work and being able to do their job when they get there."

An Access Economics report estimated the annual cost of lost productivity to domestic violence was around $480 million - although this figure is thought to be a conservative estimate.

The study was conducted between February and July of this year and involved 3611 online surveys, completed mostly by union members across the country. About 80 per cent of survey respondents were women, many in the nursing and teaching professions.

And nearly half of victimised employees did report the abuse to their employer, but the survey discovered that few actually found the response from management was helpful.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the survey will hopefully show employers how it is in their best interests to offer help to employees who are affected by domestic violence.

"The last thing you want for a woman who is experiencing this sort of crisis is to lose her job," she told AAP.

"It might be worth just giving women an avenue to say, `Look, I'm having this problem, I need some leave to deal with it.' It might be blocking emails, it might be giving them a new phone extension so the partner can't ring and abuse them on the phone at work."

The study will be used as a baseline, especially for understanding the impact of changes in workplace entitlements in this area, as the survey is being treated as the first of its kind in Australia.


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