DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND THE WORKPLACE

Many organizations believe domestic violence issues are private matters and should not affect or are not a concern for the workplace. However, when domestic violence follows a victim to work, it becomes an issue in the workplace. An aggressor can present a risk to the victim or others in the workplace itself. A study of domestic violence in Canada and its impact on the workplace has found more than one-third of workers across the country have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime. For more than half of those affected, the violence followed them to work.

HOW DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AFFECTS EMPLOYERS

QUICK FACTS:
  • $77.9 million annually is what the Canadian employers lose to domestic violence
  • 2nd most prominent form of violence that impacts Alberta workplaces is domestic violence
  • ¼ Albertans has experienced violence at their workplace
  • 74% of domestic violence victims will experience abuse at their work – could be receiving constant calls or texts at work or the safety of all the employees being compromised by the person who is perpetrating domestic violence
  • 90% of domestic violence incidents will be disclosed to a coworker
  • Unaddressed domestic violence costs a business $100,000 for every 100 employees – in absenteeism, lost productivity, and retraining

Alberta Council of Women's Shelters supports construction workplaces to recognize and stop domestic violence. Alberta Council of Women's Shelters. (2019, October 17). https://acws.ca/news/test-news/.

RECOGNIZING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Some of the many signs of domestic violence are:

  • Reduced productivity and engagement
  • Absenteeism or difficulty getting to work
  • Reluctance to go home after work
  • Harassing phone calls, frequent text messages and emails
  • Obvious injuries

EMPLOYER RESPONSIBILITIES

If domestic violence is, or maybe a hazard at the worksite, employers must take the following steps to prevent workplace violence:

  • Address violence as a potential “hazard” when carrying out hazard assessments and implementing measures to eliminate or control those hazards, as required by Part 2 of the OHS Code;
  • Develop and implement a domestic violence prevention plan (consisting of prevention policies and procedures) in consultation with their joint worksite health and safety committee, health and safety representative or affected workers, as applicable;
  • Ensure that their violence and harassment prevention policies include, among other things, statements outlining that the employer:
    • Is committed to eliminating (where reasonably practicable) and controlling the hazard;
    • will investigate and take corrective action to address any incidents of violence;
    • will not disclose personal information relating to incidents of violence (except where necessary to investigate, take corrective action or inform the parties involved of the results of the investigation into an incident, or to inform workers of a threat of violence or potential violence);
  • ensure that their domestic violence prevention procedures include, among other things:
    • measures the employer will take to eliminate or control the hazard of violence;
    • information about the nature and extent of the hazard of violence (including information related to threats of violence or potential violence), and the procedures to be followed by the employer when disclosing this information;
    • the procedure to be followed by workers to obtain immediate assistance when an incident of violence occurs;
    • the procedure to be followed by workers when reporting violence;
    • the procedure to be followed by the employer when documenting, investigating, and implementing corrective measures to address incidents of violence;
    • the procedure to be followed by the employer when informing the parties involved of the results of an investigation and any corrective action taken;
  • provide training to workers for recognizing, preventing, and responding to violence;
  • review and update their domestic violence prevention plans;
  • advise workers who have reported an injury or adverse symptom resulting from an incident of violence to consult with a health professional (of the worker’s choosing) for treatment or referral, and if necessary, provide workers with paid time off to attend such a consultation session;
  • take reasonable precautions to protect persons at the worksite against domestic violence (if aware that a worker is or is likely to be exposed to domestic violence at a worksite), and;
  • be prepared to allow time off to help the worker make themselves safe. Eligible employees can take up to 10 days of unpaid, job-protected leave due to the effects of violence in the home.

BEYOND LEGISLATIVE RESPONSIBILITIES

Providing support for individuals suffering from domestic violence can protect the worker and other potential victims:

  • Help victims develop an individual safety plan.
  • Keep an updated list of organizational supports and local resources
  • Post domestic violence awareness resources in the workplace: fact sheets, posters, information about local supports

LEGISLATION

ALBERTA LEGISLATIVE REQUIREMENTS

In Alberta, the Occupational Health and Safety Code includes a provision for “domestic violence” in Part 27, “Violence and Harassment” section 390.3.

DEFINITIONS

Under the OHS Act, “violence” is defined as any threatened, attempted, or actual conduct of a person (whether at a work site or work-related) that causes or is likely to cause physical or psychological injury or harm and includes domestic or sexual violence."

Domestic violence is "the attempt, act or intent of someone within a relationship, where the relationship is characterized by intimacy, dependency or trust to engage in purposeful controlling or coercive pattern of which takes place over time in order for one individual to exert power, control or coercion over another."

KEY INFORMATION

  • Domestic violence is included in the definition of violence in the Alberta OHS Act.
  • If an employer knows that a domestic violence incident might come into the workplace, they must protect workers.
  • Workers must report to their employer or supervisor if they think domestic violence might be, or is, occurring at the worksite.