Domestic violence does not play preference to gender, religion, marital status, cultural beliefs or financial status. Domestic Violence is around us every day, and is effecting working Albertans at home and on the job. The old saying “Leave your home/work problems at the door” is easier said than done. What happens when issues at home show up to work and effect the general wellbeing of employees? Employees and Employers are faced with the challenge of dealing with the ongoing challenge of work and life segregation. With the introduction of Bill 30: An Act to Protect the Health and Well -being of Working Albertans, the Employers responsibility has changed. But how far will the new legislative changes go to walking the fine line between employee/employer confidentiality and how will you manage when Domestic Violence affects your company?
Domestic Violence affects everyone, including Employers. For example, in Alberta:
- 29% of victims take an estimated 2 days off work due to domestic violence.
- 74% of victims will use company time and resources to deal with being harassed at work by a current or former partner.
- 50% of victims will lose a job due in part to domestic violence, which results in recruitment and retraining costs.
- 53.5% of victims have reported that abusive acts continued at or near their workplace.
- Almost 90% of victims have disclosed information to a co-worker.
Responsibilities of Employers under Bill 30
Bill 30 “An Act to Protect the Health and Well-being of Working Albertans” gives employers new obligations in regards to violence and harassment. Bill 30 states that “Every employer shall ensure, as far as it is reasonably practicable for the employer to do so, that none of the employer’s workers are subjected to or participate in harassment or violence at the work site.”
This means that if an employee is a victim of domestic abuse, the employer has a responsibility to protect the worker while they are at their place of work. This may include prohibiting the spouse or partner from attending or phoning the place of work. It may also be necessary to notify other workers if the employees spouse/partner poses a threat to others at the worksite by showing up and acting aggressively or violently.
On the other hand, if the employee is the person abusing their spouse/partner, the employer has a responsibility to ensure that the employee does not harass their spouse/partner at the work site. This may include monitoring the employee’s use of company property such as phones, email, vehicles to ensure that the employee does not use any of these to harass or stalk their spouse/partner.
How to recognize signs of Domestic Violence:
The following examples are some visual cues that could indicate that a person has been a victim of domestic violence, however this list does not include all possible signs.
- An employee may show up to work with bruises or injuries, which are often blamed on clumsiness or accidents. They may also wear unreasonable clothing (such as a turtleneck or sweater in hot weather) in an attempt to cover bruises or injuries.
- An employee may show up late for work or have unexplained absences
- The employee may show signs of uncharacteristic withdrawal, sadness, exhaustion, fear, anxiety, or changes in the ability to concentrate
- The employee may receive several calls or texts throughout the day that appear to cause fear or anxiety, or to act generally upset.
- If the employee brings their spouse to a company event, the spouse may appear controlling or aggressive towards the employee.
- The employee may hint about trouble at home. They may disclose that their partner has a bad temper, or problems with alcohol or drug use.
How to help if you suspect your employee is a victim of Domestic Violence:
- Listen and show concern but restrain from badmouthing the employees spouse/partner and telling them to “just leave” the relationship or the dwelling.
- Ensure them that what they share with you is confidential and will not be discussed with other employees.
- Provide resources including outreach services, shelter information, and support services.
- Suggest that the employee may want to have an emergency bag at work in the event that they need to leave in a hurry. This will ensure they have basic items such as clothes, ID, and personal items.
- If you think that the person will come to the worksite and endanger the health and safety of the employee and others, follow the company policy and procedure and report the matter your supervisor/manager and proceed with calling the police.
How to Prevent Violence and Harassment in the Workplace
The best way to prevent workplace violence and harassment is to ensure that the company has developed a policy and procedure that address it specifically and to adequately train all workers on this policy and procedure. This will ensure that workers know their rights regarding the subject and are aware of how to recognize and report these types of issues.
For more information or for assistance on developing a health and safety management system that includes workplace violence and harassment prevention, please call Safety Ahead at 780-473-4772! And remember Think Safe, Think Ahead!
Alberta Council of Women's Shelters