Domestic Violence is an Occupational Health and Safety Issue

Sari Sairanen

On April 28 we mark the World Day for Safety and Health at Work. As we recognize the importance of a safe employment environment and healthy workers, the impact of domestic violence must be both acknowledged and addressed as an occupational health and safety issue. 

Our workplaces are not immune to domestic violence, as we know that violence against women has no geographical or socio-economic boundaries. Studies have shown that domestic violence impacts the workplace through losses in output, absences, and productivity. Issues of domestic violence can also increase risk for physical and psychological violence in the workplace. In fact, a majority of employers say they have experienced a situation where it was necessary to protect an employee facing domestic abuse.

The reality is that domestic violence is already an occupational issue, and it is one that the workplace is frequently ill-equipped to deal with. Often the workplace is the only haven for women who are experiencing domestic violence, providing both an environment where they are free from the presence of their abuser and an opportunity for them to reach out for help.

While domestic violence is covered under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, Ministry of Labour inspectors must receive proper training to ensure that policies and procedures are in place at workplaces province-wide to protect all workers against domestic abuse. 

It’s known that women are more able to leave violent and abuse relationships when they have economic security. Unifor, as Canada’s largest union in the private sector, has bargained paid domestic violence leave provisions into several collective agreements and the union has been active in the effort to legislate paid leave to aid women fleeing abuse.

Unifor Women's Advocate logo

Unifor’s ground breaking Women’s Advocate program also trains representatives in the workplace to assist women with issues of harassment and abuse with the goal of creating a healthier work environment and safer communities.

No one should have to choose between earning a living and protecting their personal safety and that of their children. We all have a duty to keep the workplace safe and free of all forms of violence, including domestic violence.