Mapping how domestic violence harms the workplace

By Lynn Desjardins | RCI: Radio Canada International
Wednesday 24 September, 2014
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Evidence from around the world suggests the impact of domestic violence on workers and their workplaces is a “significant and growing problem,” according to a group of experts. They say that such violence costs Canadian society alone 6.9 billion dollars per year.

Researchers from the University of Toronto and and Western University received funding to create an international network to gather evidence about the problem and to come up with solutions. Planning began in Toronto this week at a gathering of  researchers, workers in the field of domestic violence, employers and unions. They came from Canada, Europe, Turkey, the US, and people from other countries will be lobbied to join.


“We have a lot of emerging research from around the world that tells us that domestic violence affects the safety of workplaces, it affects the productivity of workplaces and it affects the reputation of workplaces,” says Barb MacQuarrie, community director of the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children at Western University in the province of Ontario.

A company’s safety, productivity and reputation at risk

Safety becomes a problem when people are stalked and attacked at their workplaces. They are at risk but so are fellow employees who attempt to intervene or protect the victim.

Productivity can drop because victims may be so stressed or injured they must take time off work.  They and colleagues may be worried and distracted from doing their work efficiently.

A company’s reputation can be harmed when an employee is injured or killed on the premises. “That hits the news and that workplace becomes known for that incident and not for all of the wonderful products that they produce or the wonderful services that they provide,” says MacQuarrie.

Network to propose action

The network will collect evidence, find ways to communicate it, and will propose action to address the problem. For example, governments could pass legislation to provide protection to workers, employers could develop policies to prevent domestic violence but also to put plans in place if it does occur, and unions will be asked to bring the issue to the bargaining table.

The network will also focus on help for perpetrators and how to change their behaviour, emphasizing that simply firing them can elevate the risk for everyone.

The project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada which is appointed by the Canadian government.

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