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Healthcare | Social Policy

Supporting Employees Suffering Domestic Violence: The Westpac Experience

15 Feb 2016, by Informa Insights

As a preview to some of the issues that will be discussed at the 2nd Annual National Family & Domestic Violence Summit we Ainsleespoke to Ainslie van Onselen, the Director of Women’s Markets, Inclusion & Diversity at Westpac. She spoke to us about the initiatives Westpac has implemented to support their employees who are experiencing domestic violence.

2016 Australian of the Year, David Morrison AO has prominently highlighted the importance of gender equality, diversity and inclusion across society and especially in the workforce.  Can you briefly explain the rationale and responsibilities of your role as Director of Women’s Markets & Inclusions & Diversity at Westpac?

Within my role as Director Women’s Markets, Inclusion and Diversity, I am responsible for two distinct but complimentary portfolios.

Our internal women-in-leadership target of 50 percent by 2017 is very ambitious and requires huge focus. Our people are our customers as well, and what we do internally sets benchmarks globally and nationally. It proves a real willingness and an appetite on the part of corporate Australia to achieve gender equality. As for the wider embedding of inclusion and diversity into the organisation – that is an even broader programme and it’s really bubbling along, which is very energising.

Looking at domestic violence, what specific policies has Westpac put in place to support victims?

We have a dedicated Family and Domestic Violence policy and a range of measures in place to support our employees experiencing family violence. This now extends to employees providing care and support to immediate family members experiencing family and domestic violence. In addition to counselling and Financial Assistance, our policy articulates support in the way of flexible working and time off work:

“Employees experiencing domestic and family violence and employees providing care and support to immediate family members experiencing family and domestic violence will be provided with up to 10 days’ of special paid leave per year for reasons related to their situation including to seek medical or legal assistance, to attend court, to seek counselling, for the purposes of relocation or to make other safety arrangements or to provide support to a member of their immediate family during these activities.”

What inspired Westpac to bring in these changes?

We have discovered that many of our employees are passionate about helping their colleagues, customers and communities live a life from family violence. An employee working group has been established to combat escalating levels of Family Violence. The working group has more than 40 volunteer employees spanning the country and functional areas, from Senior Leaders through to our important front line team.

What are the biggest hurdles in implementing these policies?

There are three hurdles that I see as needing to be overcome if the policies are to be successfully implemented:

  1. Raising awareness of Domestic and Family violence as a workplace issue and raising awareness of the policies themselves. There is limited benefit is people don’t know about what we have available to support;
  2. Ensuring employees feel comfortable to come forward to seek support; and
  3. Ensuring our people leaders are equipped to have conversations with employees who are either experiencing family violence or supporting family members experiencing family violence.

Do you have any advice for other organisations who wish to implement similar changes within their companies?

Consultation is key. It is important to consult broadly with a variety of stakeholders including your HR business partners, Health, safety and Wellbeing team, security, IT, your EAP provider and any employee action group to ensure you put in a range of measures that are fit for purpose within your organisation.  Make sure everyone is aware of what we are trying to do so they can be part of the solution.

Ainslie van Onselen will be speaking in further detail about Westpac’s policies at the 2nd Annual National Family & Domestic Violence Summit. For more information, including the current agenda, please head to our website.

P16A18_Nat Family Dom violence_DelegatePack

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