How can I support a co-worker or employee?

What if a co-worker or employee is affected by domestic and family violence or sexual assault?

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Sexual assault, domestic and family violence are workplace issues

Co-workers or employees experiencing sexual assault, domestic and family violence may show signs of:

  • Distraction

  • Stress or distress/crying

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Fear.

They may be having trouble concentrating at work and managing deadlines, or require time off for legal matters to obtain protection orders or keep their children safe. They may have doctor’s appointments, counselling appointments or appointments for their children. They may have protection orders in place with conditions that prevent the perpetrator from approaching them at work.

Perpetrators of violence often attempt to undermine the work performance of the person they are targeting.

They can do this by:

  • Making direct threats to the person’s safety

  • Harassing them through phone calls, texts or emails

  • Following them to work or stalking them at work

  • Pulling out of childcare responsibilities at the last minute

  • Depriving them of sleep.

It is important to remember that perpetrators are responsible for sexual assault, domestic and family violence. Workplaces can make a real difference by supporting women through the stresses associated with abuse.

Organisations also have a responsibility to respond appropriately to their staff who are perpetrators of violence. Many perpetrators use work time and resources to conduct abusive acts.

This can include:

  • Emailing, phoning or texting while at work

  • Using work IT systems to access private information about someone

  • Acting abusively towards other staff or clients

  • Taking time off to pursue litigation that is designed to harass or undermine someone

  • Manipulating pay or roster systems to avoid child support or other obligations (this can be a form of financial abuse).

Learn more

Some organisations have policies to support workers who experience domestic and family violence. These policies usually cover issues such as training for managers or key Human Resources Management staff, leave provisions, disclosure support and referral, fair work responses to the impacts of abuse on work, safety planning at work, safety audits, emergency responses, privacy policies.

For more information, see:

The Domestic Violence and Work website 

Model Policies and Procedures

Increasingly, workplace enterprise agreements are including clauses to cover domestic and family violence. Australia leads the world in promoting the right of all people to be to be supported at work should they experience domestic and family violence.

For more information on domestic and family violence workplace rights and entitlements, browse the Domestic Violence and Work website.


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