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​Victorian Workplace Equality and Respect Project

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 Victorian Workplace Equality and Respect project, Our Watch will consolidate, build on and complement existing initiatives to produce an evidence-based model and standards for key workplace actions and activities to prevent violence against women.

Our Watch is leading the Victorian Workplace Equality and Respect Project, with support from the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet.

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.

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.

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.

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 is the goal of this project?
The Victorian Workplace Equality and Respect Project will produce an evidence-based model and standards to guide workplace actions and activities to prevent violence against women. 

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 Victorian Workplace Equality and Respect project will complement this work to strengthen workplace initiatives across Victoria.

Our Watch will make the evidence-based model and standards for preventing violence against women in the workplace available to all Australian workplaces so they can commit themselves to consistent actions that prevent violence against women.

Supporting workplaces across Victoria to take action to prevent violence requires a skilled and supported workforce of prevention practitioners. As such, Our Watch will also work to develop a Victorian PVAW workforce development strategy as a core part of this project.  

What is guiding this project? 
The Victorian Workplace Equality and Respect Project is taking 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.

Recent workplace initiatives have been guided by a number of frameworks including the VicHealth Preventing Violence Against Women framework and the World Health Organisation’s Healthy Workplaces: A model for action. Our Watch will build on this work, as well as incorporate the work of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.

What will the project involve for participating workplaces?
As part of this project, Our Watch is engaging a small number of Victorian workplaces whose leaders are committed to gender equality and violence prevention. These workplaces are chosen for their ability to influence not just their employees, but also the community more broadly. They will be supported to develop strategies and identify initiatives to promote gender equality and prevent violence against women.

The project will reach approximately 2000 employees across multiple sectors. Because of the flow-on influence of this project, additional reach may include industry groups and peak bodies, employees’ families and communities.

For participating workplaces, the project will include 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 will review their policies, procedures, and practices to make sure they are actively promoting gender equality, and equip staff to recognise the different forms of violence against women, and how to respond and refer someone experiencing violence to support services.

The Workplace Equality and Respect Project will not prescribe specific programs of practice for a workplace to pick up and implement. However, the guidance developed throughout the program will help inform future workplace prevention initiatives.

Who is supporting this project?
The Victorian State Government has provided $900,000 in funding to pilot an evidence-based approach to preventing violence against women and promoting gender equality and respect in workplaces. Our Watch is leading the Victorian Workplace Equality and Respect Project, with support from the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet. This project was announced 30 November, 2015.

When is this project happening?
The Victorian Workplace Equality and Respect Project will be implemented over 2016. Evaluation of the project is expected to be complete by June 2017. 

How can I find out more about this project?
For more information about this project please email enquiries@ourwatch.org.au.

Read the report from RMIT, Promising Practices in Workplace and Organisational Approaches for the Prevention of Violence Against Women. 

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