Domestic violence is a serious issue across Canada, with staggering statistics and sometimes, tragic results.
According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16, and on average, every six days a woman in Canada is killed by her intimate partner.
Something needs to be done, and recently advocates are calling for workplaces to take more action.
“Unfortunately, domestic violence is a reality of Canadian society and the Canadian workplace,” said Louise Chenier, Manager of Workplace Health and Wellness Research at The Conference Board of Canada. “And employers can play a role in providing greater resources and supports for victims of domestic violence.”
The board recently found that 71 per cent of Canadian employers surveyed reported experiencing a situation where it was necessary to protect a victim of domestic abuse.
They also found that domestic violence impacts the workplace through productivity losses, higher absenteeism and, in some cases, can affect the safety of co-workers increasing the risk for physical and psychological violence in the workplace.
And a number of provinces across the country are taking action.
In Manitoba proposed legislation will ensure that victims of domestic violencecould get up to 17 weeks without penalty.
“When there is violence at home, you shouldn’t have to worry about holding onto your job as you escape and rebuild,” Labour Minister Erna Braun said in a news release.
It would allow those affected by domestic violence to take up to 10 days off per year without penalty, including five days of paid leave. They would also be entitled to a period of leave to up to 17 weeks so they can take time to recover or move.
“This proposed first-in-Canada legislation would ensure that victims of domestic violence have financial security, job protection and flexibility to take time away from work to recover from violence,” said Braun.
Alberta has taken steps to combat domestic violence as well.
The province’s human services minister Irfan Sabir said that ‘the government has accepted and will implement recommendations by the family violence death review committee that would require workplaces to better protect employees from domestic violence.’
This includes training for employers and employees to know how to respond to family violence when it enters the workplace.
In 2011 a women was murdered by her spouse in Edmonton, and when the murder was reviewed by the family violence review committee, they discovered the woman’s employer and co-workers did little to help her, even thought they knew what was going on.
“On the victim’s side, the employer did very little to protect the employee at the workplace site and knew about the violence and knew about the potential threat and did nothing about it,” said Allen Benson, chairman of the death review committee.
The committee recommended that the Occupational Health and Safety act be amended to include family violence as a workplace hazard, so that tragedies such as the one that took place in 2011 won’t happen again.