The Queensland Government is dedicated to the health, safety and wellbeing of all employees, and recognises the public health directions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 such as social distancing, self-isolation and limiting non-essential activity may bring increased anxiety, risk and exposure to issues including domestic and family violence (DFV).
Research indicates DFV is known to escalate during community and disaster events, such as COVID-19. It is important to understand that COVID-19 and associated stress does not cause DFV, but can increase severity and frequency by:
- increased exposure to the person using DFV
- escalation of violence and control as the DFV user’s chosen response to stress
- use of COVID-19 and social isolation to inflict DFV.
Social isolation associated with COVID-19 also limits a victim’s opportunity to access support.
Managers play an important role in supporting the safety and wellbeing of employees whether they are in the office or working from home. Managers should:
- refresh their understanding of how to recognise, respond and refer to DFV
- act if they become aware an employee may be experiencing DFV
- listen and refer employees to specialist DFV support and the employee assistance program.
Managers may find it difficult to recognise the signs of DFV when employees are working remotely so it is important keep lines of communication open. Managers should:
- check-in with employees regularly (use video conferencing where possible)
- proactively promote:
- health and wellbeing support options and resources for employees, including the employee assistance program
- workplace policies and procedures, such as the code of conduct, DFV policy and external DFV support services
- provide opportunity for employees to confidentially disclose if they do not feel safe working remotely (noting they may not be ready to disclose) and advise if alternative arrangements are available.
Read the Conversation guide for team leaders if you need advice and support on how to have conversations with employees affected by DFV.
Support affected employees
If an employee discloses to you, they are experiencing DFV, you should:
- listen and believe
- reassure them of confidentiality
- ask about their safety
- ask what support the they need from the workplace and refer them to external DFV support services.
- consider alternatives/additions to remote working:
- can they work from the office or another work site as an ‘essential worker’? (with appropriate health and safety and social distancing in place)
- would they benefit from having a work mobile phone or laptop to ensure better access to support (noting technology facilitated abuse or monitoring of personal phones or equipment may be occurring)
- continue to contact with the employee regularly, particularly when they are unable to be relocated to an alternative location for work
- consider agreeing on a ‘safe word’ for the employee to use to signal that they need help
- encourage them to download useful apps e.g. Daisy or Sunny
- remind them that in an emergency they should call the police on (triple zero) 000.
- Employee assistance program
- 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732)
- DVConnect Womensline: 1800 811 811
- DVConnect Mensline: 1800 600 636
Note: managers should also seek support or advice as needed from their EAP provider.