On January 1st this year, the Fair and Family Workplaces Act took effect in Alberta. Labour Minister Christina Gray spoke about the importance of the legislation as the first step in updating labour laws after nearly 30 years of inaction. She went on to say “Albertans deserve fair and family-friendly workplaces that support a strong economy and ensure they can take care of their loved ones.” Key changes include domestic violence leave. Providing leave allows workers who are experiencing violence to deal with related issues such as attending court, counselling or in finding housing without fear of losing their employment. Remaining employed is a key pathway out of domestic violence.
Making the link between the economy, workplaces and the wellbeing of families Alberta joins a growing movement of provinces, including Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan that have taken bold steps to address the problem of domestic violence by passing laws to support victims of violence and protect their jobs.
Research has shown that domestic violence is a significant issue for employers. In 2014, CREVAWC and Western University partnered with the Canadian Labour Congress to conduct the first pan-Canadian research into prevalence rates of domestic violence at work. Findings from over 8000 respondents show that a third of Canadian workers report experiences of domestic violence, with more than half of those experiencing it at work. It is an old idea that domestic violence is a private matter between individuals. The cascade of impacts ripple out to every level of society including workplaces, communities and the economy. Conservative costs to Canadian society have been estimated by the Department of Justice at $7 billion dollars per year to Canadian society.
Domestic violence is a serious issue that may seem too complex for workplaces to tackle. But that’s not the case. Workplaces are ideal settings to provide education, resources and support. They are microcosms of Canadian society and under the right leadership they can become model communities that are both compassionate and productive.
Since 2008, Make It Our Business (MIOB) has been working with progressive employers. Taking a pro-social bystander approach, MIOB teaches workers, managers and supervisors to recognize warning signs and risk factors, to respond safely and effectively and to make referrals to local experts as the situation warrants. At the organizational level, MIOB helps employers develop clear policies and procedures. Engaging everyone in the issue is a pro-active strategy that ensures all workers are prepared to respond when warning signs first appear, no matter where in the organization they show up.
The potential to have a significant impact is not lost on those become engaged. At the end of a two-day MIOB training, a manager in a manufacturing plant in a rural community said, “We have over a thousand workers here. If we teach everyone to recognize, respond and refer, we are going to have a significant impact on this community.” That is precisely the vision for how we can move forward as a society. Everyone has a role to play. No one has to tackle it alone.
In Ontario, we celebrate Family Day every February. Recognizing the devastating impact that domestic violence has on families, we salute the progressive leaders and workplaces that have taken steps to educate and engage their workers as champions for change. Together we make the difference.
Today we are honouring workplaces that have participated in Make It Our Business training over the past year.