Canadian employers lose $77.9 million annually due to the direct and indirect impacts of domestic violence, and the costs, to individuals, families and society, go far beyond that. However, we know very little about the scope and impacts of this problem in Canada.
The Canadian Labour Congress partnered with researchers at the University of Western Ontario and conducted the first ever Canadian survey on domestic violence in the workplace. We did this because there is almost no data on this issue in Canada and we know 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.
Being a perpetrator of domestic violence also significantly impacts a worker and their workplace. A recent study found that 53% of offenders felt their job performance was negatively impacted, 75% had a hard time concentrating on their work, and 19% reported causing or nearly causing workplace accidents due to their violent relationship. Their behaviours lead to a loss of paid and unpaid work time, a decrease in productivity, and safety hazards for their co-workers.
Here are some of the things we learned from this survey:
Experiences of Domestic Violence
A third (33.6%) of respondents reported ever experiencing domestic violence from an intimate partner, and there were differences by gender (figure 2).
Aboriginal respondents, respondents with disabilities, and those indicating a sexual orientation other than heterosexual (e.g., lesbian, gay or bisexual) were particularly likely to have reported experiencing DV in their lifetime. In terms of indirect domestic violence experience, 35.4% of respondents reported having at least one co-worker who they believe is experiencing, or has previously experienced, domestic violence and 11.8% reported having at least one co-worker who they believe is being abusive, or has previously been abusive, toward his/her partner.
The Impact of DV on Workers and Workplaces
Of those who reported DV experience, 38% indicated it impacted their ability to get to work (including being late, missing work, or both).
In total, 8.5% of DV victims indicated they had lost their job because of it.
Over half (53.5%) of those reporting DV experiences indicated that at least one type of abusive act occurred at or near the workplace. Of these, the most common were abusive phone calls or text messages (40.6%) and stalking or harassment near the workplace (20.5%; Figure 3).
Ultimately, stronger evidence will help to shape legislation, policies, and practices that promote violence prevention and safety in workplaces, that hold abusers accountable for their behaviour, and that lift the burden from victims so they need not deal with domestic violence alone.
Disclosure of DV in the Workplace and Support Received
Overall, 43.2% of those experiencing DV reported they discussed it with someone at work. There are apparent differences according to gender, with men being particularly unlikely to discuss domestic violence at work. Among all respondents, 28% said they had received information about domestic
violence from their employer. Among unionized respondents, 27.2% received information about domestic violence from their union.
Only 10.6% of all respondents think that employers are aware when domestic violence is affecting their workers, but among those who said yes, 62.3% believe employers act in a positive way to help workers experiencing domestic violence. Similarly, only 11.3% of all respondents think union officials are aware when domestic violence is affecting members, and among them, 86.6% believe unions act in a positive way to help members.
Where do we go from here?
This research has identified the scope and impact of domestic violence on workers and workplaces, but is only a first step. Immediate next steps include encouraging use of these results by governments, unions and employers to establish proactive practices to address the impact of domestic violence at work. Some immediate changes in the labour movement include:
The Yukon Teachers’ Association has negotiated special leave that can be used when workers need time off due to domestic violence.
The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has a network of social stewards who are provided training to develop listening skills, learn about available resources, and assist in prevention of a range of difficulties, including family-related problems. The program is particularly effective in Quebec.
Download the entire report and learn more about what we are doing on this issue.