Dominique Lamb CEO National Retail Association

As you know, the NRA speaks up on a range of issues that affect not only members and other retailers, but also their employees and the entire retail sector. And while we’ve had a lot of success in recent years bringing major issues to the attention of government, sometimes you do question whether anyone is listening.

That’s why it was extremely heartening to receive an email from Geneva, Switzerland, this week reporting that the NRA’s strong stance on the issue of domestic violence and its impact in the workplace has been noted internationally. The email came from a delegate to an expert group meeting of the International Labor Organisation, which was examining the issue of violence at work.  I’m advised that the NRA’s leading approach to the issue was placed on the record at the meeting.

The reason the association has taken a strong stance on the issue of domestic violence – and how governments should respond to it – is that the sector is one of the industries most impacted by this problem.  As the largest employer of young people in the country, and one of the largest employers of women, we simply cannot ignore the fact that the highest proportion of victims – women aged between 18 and 24 – are likely to be working in retail.

Our research indicates there are some 18,000 retail employees who experienced domestic violence each year.  And we know that it impacts on their work performance and even their ability to come to work.

We don’t necessarily believe the push by the union movement for paid domestic violence leave represents a total solution to the problem. Domestic and family violence is an issue that’s deeply complex, affecting people from all demographics, all social classes, all ages, all cultures and all jobs. As a lawyer with years of experience working with the Women’s Legal Service supporting victims, I am concerned this is too simplistic an approach.

We know that women often go to extraordinary lengths to hide from friends or family the fact that they are even in such situations, but even more so to hide it from their employer or colleagues – they are on a rollercoaster of emotions, which are only compounded by the thought of their colleagues finding out, so the concept of a block of paid leave is already problematic.

We also know that when these issues do spill over into the workplace, the average employer has absolutely no idea what to do, what their responsibilities are, or how to deal with the (sometimes dangerous) ramifications.

But, when a woman moves out of a dangerous situation, her workplace is almost always the first place a perpetrator will go to try and track her down, and also, the most likely time that a perpetrator will escalate violent behaviour. So, we do support the idea that preventing, domestic and family violence is a responsibility of the whole community – including employers.

The NRA is talking with unions and governments to ensure that any measures taken in this space are workable and sustainable from an employer’s point of view, and that any changes come with appropriate support and training for managing a domestic violence situation in the workplace.

It’s good to hear that they are listening in Geneva.  Now we need to make sure they are listening in Canberra as well.  We’ll keep you informed on progress.

Dominique Lamb, CEO