Two years ago, in November 2019, the accountancy firm and consultancy KPMG, published a global report that had been commissioned by Vodaphone. Over the course of the previous year, 80m working women in over 100 countries had said that they had experienced domestic violence and abuse - DVA More than one in six.
The figure for the UK alone was 574,000, of whom, 122,000 had been forced to take time off work. The total cost, for British business was £316m, KPMG estimated.
In Australia, a year earlier, of Corporate Social Responsibility Through a Feminist Lens: Domestic Violence and the Workplace in the 21st Century’ in which she said “Corporations can no longer responsibly fail to consider and address the environmental, social, and human rights impacts of their business relations. Along with government and civil society, corporations have a part to play in formulating and implementing mechanisms for tackling complex social problems such as domestic violence.”
Vodaphone, with its decade-old Vodaphone Foundation had already led the way, publishing a guide in which it unashamedly made a business case for agreeing with de Jonge.
“Between 30 and 40 per cent of victims of domestic violence and abuse will be in employment at some point in their lives. This means that most workplaces will be affected in some way or another”
It states, before going to say “When domestic violence follows victims into the workplace it impacts on productivity, morale, wellbeing and workplace relationships. It puts limits on an employees’ full and active participation in work.”
Finally, it concludes that “Companies that commit to supporting their employees in reaching their full potential are more likely to attract and retain workers.”
Working from home
If it is clear that some businesses like the mobile phone giant were already taking DVA very seriously before the pandemic, the sudden shift by hundreds of millions to working from home has significantly increased corporate awareness.
Now it is the turn of a wine giant to follow Vodaphone’s lead. Treasury Wine Estates – TWE - has launched its own “commitment to prevent and respond to domestic and family violence impacting its team members.” Permanent and casual employees who have suffered in this way will be eligible for up to 10 days of paid leave, emergency financial support up to AUD$5000, as well as a range of flexible work arrangements as needed. Recognition is also given to the needs of employees supporting other people who have experienced DVA, and HR staff – described by TWE as ‘people leaders’ will be “provided with materials and resources to help them in recognising, responding to, and supporting any team members who are affected by [it].
TWE Chief People Officer Katie Hodgson said “The work environment can often be the only place where someone experiencing domestic and family violence feels safe, so we have a responsibility to protect our team members and ensure their long-term welfare and safety… By setting standards, raising awareness, prompting conversations, and supporting those impacted, we can contribute towards the elimination of domestic and family violence in our communities.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly the TWE statement makes no reference to the specific nature of its business and the possible relationship of its products to DVA, but in May 2021 the OECD published a policy response in which it clearly states “During the COVID‑19 pandemic, there has been an increase in domestic violence, for which harmful alcohol consumption is a risk factor.”
Given the ongoing trend towards working-from-home that is expected to continue even once the pandemic has been deemed to be ‘over, it will be interesting to see how long it takes other players in the wine industry to adopt the same strategy as Vodaphone and TWE.