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Workplace Equality and Respect

​Workplaces have a significant influence over people’s professional and personal lives, and over society more broadly. As such, organisations, not just individuals, have the opportunity to take an active role in addressing the drivers of violence against women. 

The latest evidence1 tells us violence against women can be reduced in Australia by increasing gender equality in all elements of everyday life – particularly workplaces, where many adults spend a large portion of their time.

Through the Workplace Equality and Respect project, Our Watch has consolidated and built on existing initiatives to produce a package of evidence-based standards and tools to support workplaces to take action to prevent violence against women. 

The Victorian State Government provided $900,000 in funding for the Workplace Equality and Respect Project.

This project was announced 30 November 2015 and was completed on 30 September 2017. 

Why are workplaces being targeted?

Violence against women impacts on both private and public life. One in four women have experienced violence at the hands of a current of former partner since the age of 15.2  Most women who experience violence are in the paid workforce.3 

More than 60% of women experience some form of violence at work and 75% of women report experiencing unwelcome and unwanted sexual behaviour at work.4
Australian employers are losing $1.3 billion annually5 as a result of violence against women, according to estimates. This is 6% of the $21.7 billion it is costing the Australian economy each year.6 

This means we need to create workplace cultures that actively promote gender equality; have zero tolerance of sexism; eliminate discriminatory attitudes, behaviours, policies and procedures; and support increasing the number of female leaders and influencers.

How will preventing violence against women benefit workplaces?

Respectful and equitable workplaces see strong staff morale, performance and commitment, as well as reduced sick leave. They also are more likely to attract and retain quality staff, who contribute diverse ideas and perspectives. 

Businesses and industries with fair and equitable policies and practices stand to benefit from greater employee retention and business reputation. Businesses also stand to benefit financially – for every woman who is spared this violence, $1,969 in annual production-related costs can also be spared.7 

Many organisations already have established response and support systems for women affected by violence. However, workplaces also have the opportunity to use their influence to promote a culture that stops this violence happening in the first place.

What was the goal of this project?

Workplace Equality and Respect aims to equip Victorian workplaces with the knowledge, skills and resources they need to create gender equitable structures, norms and practices. 

Workplace Equality and Respect does not prescribe a specific program for workplaces to pick up and implement. It outlines five standards to help workplaces recognise what is needed to:
  • secure the commitment of leaders and staff
  • ensure conditions support gender equality
  • reject sexist and discriminatory cultures
  • support staff who experience violence
  • integrate gender equality into their core business.

It also provides tools to support workplaces, including:
  • Self-assessment 
  • Implementation guide
  • Staff survey
  • Resources including templates, best practice examples and guidance on communications, engaging leaders and dealing with backlash. 

Our Watch recognises the world leading work that has been taking place in workplaces across Victoria to address violence against women, including the work of VicHealth, the women’s health sector and the White Ribbon Foundation.

The resources produced within Workplace Equality and Respect complement this work to strengthen workplace initiatives across Victoria and Australia.

Our Watch is committed to sharing the Workplace Equality and Respect standards and tools with all Australian workplaces so they can commit themselves to consistent actions that prevent violence against women. These resources will be released in 2018.

What guided this project? 

Workplace Equality and Respect took its approach from Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia.

Change the story was released in November 2015 by Our Watch in partnership with ANROWS and VicHealth. Based on the latest national and international evidence, it has been designed to guide primary prevention practices across all states and territories in Australia, including in workplaces.

At the start of this project, Our Watch commission RMIT to review existing workplace prevention of violence against women programs and report on similarities, lessons learned and opportunities for impact. You can read the report from RMIT here: Promising Practices in Workplace and Organisational Approaches for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. 

How were workplaces engaged as part of this project? 

As part of this project, Our Watch engaged a small number of Victorian workplaces whose leaders are committed to gender equality and violence prevention. These workplaces were chosen for their ability to influence not just their employees, but also the community more broadly. These workplaces were:
  • Carlton Football Club
  • Connections UnitingCare
  • La Trobe University
  • North Melbourne Football Club
These four workplaces were supported to develop strategies and identify initiatives to promote gender equality and prevent violence against women. This support included professional development for staff to help them maintain respectful relationships and recognise gender biases and stereotypes – such as assuming a man is not a primary caregiver, or women are less effective leaders – and understanding how these attitudes can be harmful.

These workplaces reviewed policies, procedures, and practices to make sure they are actively promoting gender equality, and took steps to equip staff to recognise the different forms of violence against women, and respond appropriately to someone experiencing violence. 

Visit the Workplace Equality and Respect website

Find all the relevant tools and resources at the Workplace Equality and Respect website

1. Our Watch et al, 2015
2. ANROWS, 2015
3. Australian Law Reform Commission, 2012
4. VicHealth, 2012
5. PwC, 2015
6.  PwC, 2015
7.  PwC, 2015