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Can work be safe, when home isn’t?

That’s the title of a new Pan-Canadian study that shows the enormous scope and impact of domestic violence on workers and workplaces. Of the more than 8,400 workers who responded to a 2014 survey conducted by the University of Western Ontario and the Canadian Labour Congress, a third report they have experienced domestic violence at some time in their lives and over half of them say it has followed them to work. They have experienced harassing phone calls and text messages, stalking behaviour, the abuser physically coming to work or the abuser contacting supervisors and co-workers.

What does it take to make work safe? What can we do to create an environment where targets of domestic violence can be safe at work? In Ontario, an employer must “take every precaution reasonable” to protect a worker and yet domestic violence risk is often not reported. We know that targets of domestic violence are often afraid to talk about it for fear of repercussions or that they will be judged and nothing will be done.

So what steps can workplaces take?

  1. Use the results of this study to understand the issues, challenges and opportunities.
  2. Educate leaders and key contacts. Leaders play a key role in creating a respectful and understanding environment where targets of domestic violence are encouraged to disclose the abuse and are assured of a supportive response.
  3. Review practices and protocol to ensure the tools and resources to build safety plans, protect and support victims and intervene with perpetrators are in place as required.
  4. Educate all workers. Since co-workers are often the first to be aware of domestic violence risk, they have tremendous power to break the isolation, talk about it, and begin the process for safety planning. Where concern, empathy, and support outweigh judgment, gossip, and indifference, the risk of spillover domestic violence can be effectively tackled.

Questions? Looking for resources or assistance in strengthening safety in your workplace? Carizon can help.  Explore the workplace resources developed by University of Western Ontario  or read the full study results