“I’ve experienced a lot of domestic violence in life and handling machines is a risk for me, sometimes I’ve got distracted.”
That was the response of one Solomon Islander woman who took part in a groundbreaking survey into the impacts of domestic and sexual violence on the workplace in Solomon Islands. It was undertaken by IFC, with the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry, SICCI. It’s part of their joint work on the Waka Mere Commitment to Action, under which 15 companies in Solomon Islands, have committed to promoting gender equality in the workplace.
More than 1,200 employees from nine companies in the Pacific Island nation participated in the survey – which showed one in three employees experienced domestic or sexual violence in the past 12 months. In two companies, the rates were even higher – with about half of all employees reporting violence in the past year.
For many who reported violence, it was regular – a quarter said violence happened at least one a month.
Overall, 44 percent reported they had experienced some form of violence in their lifetime.
“Solomon Islands has among the highest rates of domestic and sexual violence in the world and this study highlights the personal and business costs of that violence,” says IFC’s Pacific Country Manager, Thomas Jacobs. “With each employee losing about two working weeks – or about 12 days in a year – the violence comes at a terrible personal cost, as well as a cost to business.”
The study highlights the stress of violence, as well as the physical consequences, follows people to work. As well as a significant personal toll, that also carries a cost to business.
And given a third of those affected are at mid or senior levels within a company, and 70 percent have been at a company for two years or more, the cost can be substantial.
The results show in one year, an employee loses more than two working weeks – about 12 days – because of the impact of domestic and sexual violence.
The study shows over four days were lost because employees were absent due to violence. Another seven days was lost, due to employees feeling distracted, tired or unwell. And more time was lost by employees being late to work.
In addition, it’s estimated five and a half work days a year of an employees’ time was taken by discussing the issue, helping someone access services or addressing the impact of absenteeism, lateness or low productivity.
A Negative Impact
More than 80 percent of people who’d experienced violence reported at least one negative impact on their work. Most found it hard to get to work, stay there or reported they felt anxious, depressed or ashamed in the workplace.
As one woman survey respondent put it: “Domestic violence is a major contributing factor to poor performances in workplaces. Victims are mentally, physically and spiritually handicapped. The burden is overwhelming to bear each day, thus victims or even perpetrators experience severe lack of concentration when they are in such a situation.”
“Overall this paints a disturbing picture of the high toll on employees and business of violence at home, impacting at work,” says the study’s lead author, IFC’s Shabnam Hameed.
“Staff feel too ashamed or are otherwise unable to tell their employers why they are missing work or why their performance is suffering, so they may resign or be sacked. The cost of replacing those staff and training new staff also has a significant cost on business.”
She says it’s also noteworthy that the study shows while more women experience violence and report slightly more effects, both men and women are affected. This, she says, is something that’s not surprising to many employees throughout the Pacific region. It adds to the point that workplace strategies to address violence are beneficial to women and men.
Lower Level of Acceptance
Encouragingly, the study found much lower levels of acceptance of domestic and sexual violence than in previous studies in Solomon Islands, such as a 2009 Solomon Islands Family Health and Safety Study and the 2015 Solomon Islands Demographic and Health Survey.
About 30 percent of employees surveyed stated they believed violence was sometimes acceptable. That’s a figure that compares positively with over 70 percent of working women and over 55 percent of working men who thought there was at least one justification for wife beating in the Demographic and Health Survey.
“This is an encouraging sign as it shows companies that have signed up to the Waka Mere Commitment to Action are helping to bring about a change in attitudes in the workplace,” said Atenasi Ata, chief executive officer of the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Companies should continue to raise awareness about the impacts of violence, encouraging a shift away from victim blaming, particularly for those seeking help.”
The study shows that although men and women are both affected, more women experience violence and report slightly more effects. Overall, 49 percent of women and 38 percent of men reported they had experienced violence in their lifetime.
The Waka Mere Commitment to Action is a joint initiative by IFC and SICCI to create opportunities for women in the private sector. The initiative is supported by the Governments of Australia and of New Zealand.
Waka Mere companies include: Bank South Pacific, Bulk Shop, GPPOL, Hatanga Construction Ltd., Heritage Park, National Fisheries Development, Pan Oceanic Bank, Solomon Airlines, Solomon Brewery, Solomon Islands National Provident Fund, Solomon Islands Port Authority, Solomon Islands Tobacco Company Ltd, Solomon Islands Water Authority, Solomon Power, and SolTuna.