Why We Need Workplace Champions to Address Domestic Violence

When workers are experiencing violence at home, the impacts are felt in the workplace. This is something for us to reflect upon as we enjoy our February holiday, Family Day.

As we have reported in the past, fully one third of Canadian workers experience domestic violence at some point in their lifetime. Work-related domestic violence can take many forms; for example, even before work hours, the perpetrator may disrupt the victim’s ability to get to work (either on time, or not at all) by hiding keys, physically restraining the victim, or refusing to care for children. During work, domestic violence often takes the form of harassment.  Domestic violence impedes workers’ ability to get to work, it continues while they are in the workplace and not surprisingly, it has a negative impact on their ability to concentrate and be productive.  Research on Canadian workers who are being abusive to their partners and spouses shows similar negative impacts on the workplace.

Work has been identified as the one place that a domestic violence perpetrator can continue to locate their victim, both during the relationship and after separation. Perpetrators who extend their abuse to the work setting are increasing the number of domains in which they control their partners; and new technological innovations (e.g., email, texting, social media) are increasing the ways in which this type of harassment can occur. Further, by harassing, stalking, and threatening the victim at work, perpetrators may succeed in getting them fired, thereby increasing their dependence.

woman holding phone - texts reads: 95% of women with violent partners who stalked them experienced harassment at their workplace

Research reveals a correlation between domestic violence entering the workplace, an escalation of the violence experienced and the risks posed by that violence. In a study of partner stalking (defined as unwanted, repeated attention that is threatening and invokes fear), 95% of women with violent partners who stalked them experienced harassment at their workplace. The Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, which reviews all domestic homicides in Ontario to assess how best to recognize and prevent them, identifies stalking, including stalking at work, as one of the risk factors that can lead to the victim being killed.

Internationally, the links between economic independence, being in paid employment and the impact of domestic violence have been steadily developing. We know that women with domestic violence experiences have more disrupted work histories, are on lower personal incomes, have had to change jobs more often and are employed at higher levels in casual and part time work than women without these experiences.

Research shows that being in employment is a key pathway for women to leave a violent relationship. The financial security that employment affords can allow women to escape becoming trapped and isolated in violent and abusive relationships, and to maintain, as far as possible, their home and standard of living.

Our Make It Our Business Workplace Champions are employers and unions that have taken the pledge to respond to and prevent domestic violence through workplace actions. Working in collaboration with the Centre for Research & Education on Violence against Women & Children, they are leading by example. They invite their employees or their union members to come forward with any concerns about their own situation or that of their co-workers. And they work with community partners to ensure safety and provide support to worker who is experiencing domestic violence.

By taking action to respond to and prevent domestic violence through workplace actions employers and unions are also helping to strengthen and build healthy families. We take this opportunity to thank and honour this year’s Make It Our Business workplace champions!

Note: If you would like the citations for research mentioned in this blog, please email Megan Powell.