Amidst all the talk of threats to our country’s economy, focus on another blow to our federal financial situation has entered the news cycle: the hidden financial cost to Canadian employers that results from domestic violence.
Surveys on the impact of domestic violence on the workplace are starting to emerge worldwide, and one out of Australia, conducted by the University of New South Wales, has resulted in over 1,600,000 Australian workers being covered by domestic violence workplace benefits, including dedicated paid leave, protection from adverse action, and flexible work arrangements.
This is important: independent income may be the most vital thing a person needs to leave an abusive relationship; especially where children are involved.
To improve workplace Domestic Abuse policies in Canada, we need more people to know about the prevalence of domestic abuse in our society, and sadly, its effect on workplace productivity, to rouse the full gamut of policy makers into action.
That’s why researchers at the University of Western Ontario, in partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), conducted the first ever Canadian survey on Domestic Violence in the workplace a few years back.
As Lise Martin, Executive Director of the Canadian Network of Women’s Shelters & Transition Houses, says, “Domestic violence doesn’t stop when a woman leaves for work, [and] very conservative estimates put the costs of domestic violence to the workplace at $85,000 for every 100 employees.”
The study found that a third of us have experienced domestic abuse (33.6%), which lines up with 35.6% of survey respondents suspecting that at least one co-worker is experiencing domestic violence.
It is proven that women with a history of domestic violence have a more disrupted work history, are consequently on lower personal incomes, have had to change jobs more often, and more often work in casual and part time roles than women without violence experiences. Nearly 1 in 10 victims of abuse report losing employment over it.
The survey revealed that for just over half of people living with domestic violence, the abuse follows them to work, particularly in the form of abusive and distracting phone calls or text messages from their partner (40.6%), followed by stalking or harassment near the workplace (20.5%). 38% of respondents also indicated it impacted their ability to get to work (including being late, missing work, or both).
When asked if domestic violence affects performance at work, 81.9% reported that it negatively affected their performance, most often due to being distracted, or feeling tired and unwell. Furthermore, 37.1% of these victims felt that their co-workers were affected by their abuse as well, because co-workers were stressed or concerned about the abusive situation.
Being a perpetrator of domestic violence also significantly impacts an abuser at work. Notably, the survey also revealed that 53% of perpetrators of violence report that domestic violence affects their workplace productivity, chiefly by affecting their concentration, and this poor concentration on the job has, in several documented cases, led to the injury of a distracted abuser’s co-workers.
So what’s needed? The main consensus says better paid leave or unpaid leave options to help people deal with the effects of domestic violence. This includes time to deal with legal issues as well as health services.
LOCAL CONNECTION CARRYING THIS WORK FORWARD…
The St. John’s Status of Women Council has partnered with the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children at the University of Western Ontario to launch an important survey in relation to the impact of Domestic Violence on workers and workplaces in Newfoundland and Labrador.
As with the initial CLC Canadian survey, more data is needed to fully understand the scope of the impact of domestic violence on workplaces in Newoundland & Labrador, where Stats Canada statistics indicate an above average prevalence of domestic abuse.
“Domestic Violence costs the Canadian economy a staggering $7.4 billion annually,” says Jenny Wright, Executive Director of the St. John’s Status of Women Council.
“The good news is that Canadian and international research has shown that positive change can happen when the right types of policies, training, and other supports are put in place.”
Wright is encouraging locals to complete the Domestic Abuse at Work survey. It is anonymous, and all workers or all genders in Newfoundland & Labrador over the age of 15 are invited to participate.
“Your voice is important, whether or not you have personally experienced or witnessed violence, Wright says.” The survey is available at sjwomenscentre.ca/dvatworknl.
Paper copies of the survey can be accessed by calling (709) 753-0220.