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Domestic violence in the workplace

Domestic violence is not a private problem; rather it’s a societal problem. However, it can also become a problem in the workplace.

Domestic violence is by no means anything new, however. Canadian law and legislation is recognizing that domestic violence has effects for people at work and in workplaces.

What is domestic violence?

Domestic violence doesn’t actually have to involve physical violence, though it often results in physical violence. Domestic violence is described as a pattern of behaviour in which one person tries to exert control over another person before, after and/or while they are involved in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can include:

  • Emotional violence;
  • Physical violence;
  • Sexual violence;
  • Psychological intimidation;
  • Verbal abuse;
  • Financial control;
  • Use or control over electronic devices;
  • Stalking; and
  • Harassment and control.

This type of behaviour is not limited to only one of the above factors but can include some or all of them.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, age, occupation, race, economic background and more. Though both men and women can be victims of domestic violence, it is predominantly women who are domestic violence victims.

How does domestic violence spill into the workplace?

Domestic violence enters the workplace, because if the worker is a victim, then this will affect them at the workplace. People who live in domestic violence situations could:

  • Have a lower productivity and not produce the high quality productivity required by the organization due to a bad home situation;
  • Increase the organization’s costs because of lower productivity; and
  • Be absent more frequently than other employees.

In addition to the above, the abuser could repeatedly call or text the worker while at the workplace, try to prevent the worker from getting to work, cause them to be late or absent, and more.

Even worse is that a violent partner may even think to come to his/her partner’s workplace to assert control over her or him, in the process not only endangering one worker’s safety but other workers' safety.

Domestic abuse is not a private issue. It can easily spill over into the workplace and the law is becoming increasingly aware of it.

Do employers have a duty to help employees who are victims of domestic abuse?

Employers have a duty to maintain a workplace that is free of harassment and violence. Though the employer cannot foresee incidences of harassment and/or violence, the employer has to take reasonable measures to prevent violence and harassment at work.

For example, the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act forces employers to tackle domestic violence at the workplace. However, other provinces and territories often don’t make mention of domestic violence in their occupational health and safety acts, although chances are that eventually the legislation will specifically address domestic violence.

Though domestic violence is covered under workplace violence, given it doesn’t have its own section it’s likely that employers may not realize that they also should address domestic violence.

If you are an employer and you suspect or know that one of your employees is a domestic violence victim you may want to consult a lawyer in regards to your obligations.

Read more:

Family Violence and the Workplace Alberta

How does domestic violence impact people at work?