The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) recently partnered with the University of Western Ontario to conduct the first ever national survey on domestic violence in the workplace.
According to a Department of Justice Canada study, Canadian employers lose $77.9 million annually because of the direct and indirect impact of domestic violence. The costs to individuals, families and society go far beyond that.
In response, researchers at the University of Western Ontario, in partnership with the CLC, decided to gather much needed data to help develop public policy and workplace practices that promote and support domestic violence prevention and safety in the workplace.
To begin, an online survey was developed and launched on December 6, 2013. A total of 8,429 workers completed the national survey, which was open to men and women, whether or not they had directly experienced domestic violence.
For purposes of the survey, domestic violence was defined as any form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse, including financial control, stalking and harassment. It occurs between opposite- or same-sex intimate partners, who may or may not be married, common law, or living together. It can also continue to happen after a relationship has ended.
The survey consisted of over 60 questions focusing on the respondents’ experience with domestic violence and the workplace. Those who experienced domestic violence personally were asked questions such as how the domestic violence impacted their work and their coworkers, whether they discussed the violence with anyone at work, and what types of workplace supports they received.
Summary of Findings
a third (33.6%) of respondents experienced domestic violence from an intimate partner at some point in their life (higher for women, aboriginal people, those with disabilities, and those indicating a sexual orientation other than heterosexual);
35.4% of respondents have at least one co-worker who they believe is experiencing or has previously experienced domestic violence;
11.8% have at least one co-worker who they believe is being abusive or has previously been abusive toward his/her partner;
violence affected 38% of respondents’ ability to get to work (including being late, missing work or both)—8.5% lost their job because of it;
majority of respondents have had domestic violence affect their work performance in some way (e.g. due to being distracted, tired or unwell);
53.5% reported violence continued at or near the workplace (the most common types of abuse were harassing phone calls or text messaging (40.6%) and stalking or harassment near the workplace);
43.2% of those experiencing domestic violence discussed it with someone at work (28% received information about domestic violence from their employer); and
most respondents believe paid leave and safety policies for domestic violence can reduce the impact on the work lives of workers.
In their report, Can Work be Safe, When Home Isn’t?
CLC concludes the research is the first step to addressing the issue of domestic violence on workers and workplaces. Immediate next steps include encouraging use of these results by governments, unions and employers to establish proactive practices to address the impact of domestic violence at work such as:
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amending occupational health and safety legislation (like Ontario and Manitoba) to require employers to protect workers from domestic violence;
including domestic violence-related amendments in federal and provincial Employment Standards (e.g. flexible working arrangements and paid domestic violence leave);
negotiating specific supports into collective agreements (e.g. Australia and Yukon have paid domestic violence leave); and
educating managers, supervisors and workers about domestic violence in the workplace, and providing specific protocols and tools to protect and support victims and intervene with perpetrators.
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