Groundbreaking Study Examines Cost-Benefit of Workplace Responses to Gender-Based Violence

Pioneering research being undertaken in Papua New Guinea by IFC and the Business Coalition For Women will for the first time measure the costs, and crucially, also the benefits to businesses of workplace responses to gender-based violence. 

The groundbreaking project, launched this month, aims to build evidence demonstrating the benefits to business of providing coordinated and comprehensive responses for employees affected by family and sexual violence. There has been a jump in the number of gender-based violence cases globally, with initiatives to prevent violence and protect people cut back, while in jurisdictions where lockdowns have been enforced, it has become more difficult for those in need to access help.

In Papua New Guinea (PNG), a nation where more than two thirds of women experience rape or assault in their lifetime, there was a 31 percent decrease in the number of those accessing gender-based violence services in the period in which authorities there enforced a COVID-19-related state of emergency, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

“There are many types of gender-based violence that impact the workplace, such as client aggression, workplace bullying and sexual harassment and violence experienced by employees at work, home and in their communities,” said Business Coalition For Women (BCFW) Executive Director Evonne Kennedy. “When many companies are downsizing, employees may not raise issues of violence with their employer as they may fear an increased risk of retaliation, including being fired,” she said, noting the impact from COVID-19.

While this research, to be collected over two years, is focused on PNG, the results are expected to inform policy responses to gender-based violence in other countries. It also aims to motivate private-sector interest in responding to family and sexual violence in workplaces and seeks to encourage more businesses in PNG to adopt workplace support for staff affected by family and sexual violence.

“We know from our work with companies in the Pacific that they are well aware addressing all forms of violence affecting the workplace is an integral part of ensuring employees and businesses can operate in a safe and resilient environment,” said Thomas J. Jacobs, IFC Country Manager for Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. “Businesses working with IFC have demonstrated that employees who receive training on domestic and sexual violence at work behave more respectfully towards each other and feel safer at work and it’s good for companies’ bottom lines.” 

The research, supported by the governments of Australia and New Zealand under the PNG Partnership, and in collaboration with Femili PNG and Oil Search Foundation, will leverage the links between BCFW, its business members and Bel isi PNG, an organization helping those who experience family and sexual violence. The project will analyze data from major PNG companies including Bank South Pacific Limited, Nambawan Super Limited and Steamships Trading Company Limited, and from Bel isi PNG.

IFC continues to advise firms around the world on approaches to addressing gender-based violence, including through this guidance note to firms specific to the COVID 19 pandemic. This project will build on IFC’s research in Fiji, prior to the pandemic, which showed high rates of domestic and sexual violence led to lost staff time and reduced productivity equivalent to almost 10 days of work per employee each year.

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