New research shows family and sexual violence is costing employers in Papua New Guinea almost 10 days of work per employee each year, equating to a financial impact of PGK 7.3 million (US$2.1 million) for participating companies.
The research, revealed in the report Workplace Responses to Family and Sexual Violence in PNG: Measuring the Business Case, underscores the vital role employers play in supporting staff impacted by family and sexual violence. The report by IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, in partnership with Business Coalition for Women, shows the cost of family and sexual violence to businesses is significantly reduced when businesses are more gender-equal and provide support for affected employees.
“This study underscores that businesses that are more gender-equal, and which provide workplace support for those impacted by family and sexual violence, also see more positive results,” said Alfonso Garcia Mora, IFC Vice President for Asia and Pacific.
“Put simply, this also means less acceptance of family and sexual violence, greater recognition of the impact of this violence on staff which leads to more reporting of cases, as well as ultimately fewer days lost to the impacts of family and sexual violence.”
This groundbreaking report, released at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating gender-based violence, also makes several key recommendations for businesses, such as implementing policies, procedures, and training to respond to family and sexual violence and help employees affected by violence. It also recommends regular awareness sessions to guide workplace responses to family and sexual violence and to let employees know of available help.
“We partnered with IFC on this important research because it directly contributes to our core aim of helping the private sector recruit, retain and promote women,” said Evonne Kennedy, Executive Director of the Business Coalition for Women (BCFW).
“We are working with many major companies in PNG to address violence, promote women’s leadership and implement human resources policies and processes. With this research, we want to encourage more businesses to introduce workplace support for staff affected by family and sexual violence.”
The research, based on a survey of 1,400 employees from three major companies, revealed businesses with gender-balanced workforces and lower acceptance of violence among employees had higher rates of reporting of violence and reduced business costs. Acceptance of violence was up to 8 percentage points lower—where men and women comprised between 40 and 60 percent of the workforce—and reporting of violence was up to 6 percentage points higher. Further, the number of workdays estimated to be lost to the impacts of violence was up to 8.67 days lower per employee each year.
“Creating respectful workplaces that are free from all forms of violence and harassment is essential to ensure employee well-being and improve productivity while driving better business returns,” said Rachel Moseley, Acting Australian High Commissioner to PNG. “Effective measures to support staff who experience family and sexual violence may also help businesses reduce lost time, employee turnover, and strengthen women’s participation in the country’s workforce.”
“This is an important piece of research that comes at a crucial time when Papua New Guinea is also dealing with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which unfortunately has only increased the incidence of gender-based violence,” said Phillip Taula, New Zealand High Commissioner to PNG. “This report is not only welcome as a document that can inform the business sector as to the social and financial implications of gender-based violence but which can also inspire positive action.”
Almost half of all respondents in the survey and 53 percent of all female respondents reported having experienced violence within their lifetimes. A majority of participants affected by family and sexual violence (88 percent) experienced emotional abuse, harassment, or intimidation by a family or household member, while 80 percent were threatened, and 72 percent were physically assaulted by a family or household member. There are early signs that measures recently introduced by the three companies, such as a team of staff trained to support colleagues and a subscription to the Bel isi PNG support service are making positive differences. The impact was stronger for companies with a gender-balanced workforce.
Family and sexual violence harm the lives of people directly affected by it, their families, and their communities. Rates of violence against women and girls in the Pacific are higher than the global rate, with the World Health Organization estimating 31 percent of ever-partnered women in PNG have experienced violence within the last 12 months. COVID-19-related lockdowns further reduced access to basic needs, increasing financial stress and social isolation and limiting the ability to escape abusive partners.
“To achieve workplace gender equality, all companies should identify and address the barriers to hiring, promoting, and maintaining a gender-balanced workforce. Supporting employees affected by family and sexual violence is key to creating a gender equal workforce. Gender equality drives better outcomes in addressing family and sexual violence for employees and the business,” said Shabnam Hameed, lead author of the report.
IFC partnered with BCFW, a non-profit organization established in 2014 by IFC—with funding from the Australian government—to conduct a two-year research project to better understand how companies in PNG can support employees affected by family and sexual violence.