Domestic Violence and the Workplace
Domestic Violence and the Workplace
Few would pause to consider that domestic violence (DV) and the workplace could be connected in some way and that DV can have an impact on the workplace. However, recent information in this regard, notably a landmark survey launched in 2013 by researchers at the University of Western Ontario (the “Canadian Survey”) indicates that DV does indeed have a significant impact on the workplace.
What is DV
DV can be defined as any form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse which occurs between intimate partners. Some DV behaviours such as assault, stalking and harassment, are more easily identifiable, while other types of behaviour maybe less obvious; for example, financial, or purely psychological control of the victim by the abuser.
- Warning signs of DV include:
- Bruises and other obvious injuries
- Unusually quiet behaviour
- Unexplained absences and tardiness
- Emotional distress, tearfulness, anxiety, fear, etc.
- Deterioration in work performance
- Alcohol/drug abuse
- Vehement denials that anything is “wrong”
- Wearing clothing designed to “hide” the body
How DV can impact the Workplace
According to the Canadian Survey, of those participants who reported that they had experienced DV, 38% stated that this caused them to either miss work, or be late for work, or both. 8.5% of the same group stated that they had lost their job as a result of DV.
- Other effects of DV on the workplace can include:
- performance of the DV victim being negatively affected
- co-workers who are supportive of the DV victim experiencing stress and anxiety
- stress and tension between the DV victim and co-workers who are unsupportive
- anger towards the DV victim by co-workers who may have to pick up the slack
- bullying of the DV victim by co-workers and other workplace parties
DV behaviour can also spill into, or occur at, or near the workplace – for example, being stalked; receiving threatening phone calls, e-mails and text messages at work; the abuser coming into the workplace; the abuser contacting or attempting to contact co-workers and the employer, etc.
43% of the participants who had experienced DV indicated that they had discussed the situation with someone at the workplace. Typically, these were either their co-workers (81.6%), or their supervisors or managers (44.7%).
So, what can employers do to help victims of DV?
Steps that employers can take, include:
- Educating employees, managers and supervisors on DV and how it can affect the workplace
- Training employees, supervisors, managers, union representative, security personnel, etc., on how to recognize the warning signs of DV
- Implementing guidelines for dealing with situations where DV is reported, or suspected
- Making counselling services available to those affected by DV
- Supporting the DV victim by allowing them to take time off and providing flexibility around work hours, etc.
- If the workplace is unionized, involving the union as a partner in addressing and dealing with DV in the workplace
If an employee is the abuser, the employer should make it clear that workplace resources are not to be used to harass anyone and that any inappropriate behaviour will result in discipline up to and including termination. Actual violence or threats of imminent violence must be reported to the police immediately.
Issues relating to DV, which spill over into the workplace, would also be covered by occupational health and safety legislation that requires employers to provide a safe workplace. For BC employers, WorkSafeBC’s handbook “Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace: A Handbook for Employers” is a good resource. This handbook can be found at https://tinyurl.com/zua7o3r
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