New research appears to indicate that Australian workplace domestic violence policies don’t translate into practice.

“The survey findings reveal that only 14 per cent of respondents currently report any form of specific training for supervisors and managers to help victims disclose domestic violence, and only 18 per cent have any form of manager training to recognise victims of domestic violence,” said Professor Karin Sanders, the head of the School of Management at UNSW Business School.

The survey, which sampled the views of 1,125 HR professionals from private and public-sector organisations around Australia, was commissioned by the Australian HR Institute (AHRI), and was conducted during April and May by Professor Karin Sanders (University of New South Wales), along with Professor Simon Restubog (Australian National University), Associate Professor Nick (Lu) Wang (ANU) and Ms Claire Petelczyc (ANU).

“The main issue is, that while most organisations boast a range of policies that touch on employee domestic violence matters, the conversion into practice falls short,” said the lead researcher on the project, Professor Sanders.

In terms of case management of domestic violence victims within organisations, some form of practice is evident, according to 23 per cent of respondents. Practices to empower victims to do something about their situation are reported by 17 per cent of respondents.

With respect to workplace attitudes, the results reveal that a substantial minority of 34 per cent of respondents agree (28 per cent) or strongly agree (6 percent) that domestic violence victims are less productive, and 38 per cent agree (33 per cent) or strongly agree (5 per cent) that they call themselves ill more often. More than 40 per cent of respondents neither agreed or disagreed with these attitudes.

A small minority of only 5 per cent of respondents agree (4 per cent) or strongly agree (1 per cent) that it is not possible to assist victims of domestic violence until they leave their abusive spouse.

Despite the dearth of specific practices, in general areas of policy and practice, 92 per cent report the availability of parental leave, 89 per cent report flexible work practices in place, and 89 per cent report anti-bullying policies and practices within their organisations.

“Organisations are spending money and effort on policies that support employees who are victims of domestic violence, which is good for organisations and their staff, and society in general,” says Professor Sanders.

“It is surprising that gender at the top of an organisation - having a female CEO and female members in the senior management team – is related to the presence of domestic violence policies and practices in the organisation,” she says. “This is even the case when we control for the type and size of an organisation.”

The chairman of the Australian HR Institute, Peter Wilson AM, said “It is interesting to note that a proportion of HR respondents report that they see domestic violence as a workplace problem with respect to productivity and absenteeism, though the proportion who are yet to make up their minds on these issues is greater.

“I believe that until the evidence puts the connections beyond doubt, as it inevitably will, workplaces will be reluctant to put domestic violence practices in place that are well informed and effective.”

The full report on the survey findings can be accessed here at or on Google Drive.

Media contacts:

Julian Lorkin: 02 9385 9887

Paul Begley: AHRI, 03 9918 9232