Faculty of Information & Media Studies

Results of national survey on impact of domestic violence in workplace unveiled

Western-led study shows domestic violence in Canada is significant workplace problem

November 27, 2014

A new study of domestic violence in Canada and its impact on the workplace has found more than one third of workers across the country have experienced domestic violence in their lifetime, and for more than half of those affected, the violence followed them to work.

The study, led by Western University's Faculty of Education, is the first of its kind to be conducted in Canada. Beginning in 2013, researchers at the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) started collecting data from more than 8,400 employed Canadians, over the age of 15, from every province and territory.

Results showed employees were dealing with abusive phone calls and text messages, stalking, harassment and abusive email messages, all while at work. In some instances abusers came directly to the employees' workplace and harassed not only the individuals, but also their colleagues and co-workers.

"This study will erase the artificial boundary society has put in place between home and work lives," says Barb MacQuarrie, the study's lead and CREVAWC Community Director. "Issues from home show up in the workplace, whether we want them to or not, and we can no longer afford to ignore what might be happening in employees' private lives."

The study also showed a trend in the ways in which individuals experiencing domestic violence disclosed that fact to others. Of those who chose to discuss it with someone at work, more than 80 per cent chose to disclose their struggles to a co-worker.

"This points to the fundamental need we have in Canada to be educating not only managers and human resources professionals, but every single individual in the workplace to recognize and respond to domestic violence," says MacQuarrie. "We need to have solid policies and programs in place because everyone from individuals, to communities, to the entire country will benefit from safer, healthier workplaces."

The study – Can Work be Safe, When Home Isn't? – was conducted in partnership with Western's Faculty of Information and Media Studies and the Canadian Labour Congress.

Findings were released today at separate events at Western's Faculty of Education and Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

The study is available on the Centre for Research and Education on Violence and Against Women and Children website at http://www.learningtoendabuse.ca

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Original press release from launch of survey in 2013/14

Western and CLC launch first ever nation-wide workplace survey on domestic violence

December 04, 2013

Western University researchers, in partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), will launch a national survey on the impact of domestic violence on workers and workplaces, the first-ever survey of its kind in Canada.

The results will provide made-in-Canada findings that will help unions, employers, advocates and governments develop strong public policy, as well as negotiate workplace supports.

The survey will be officially launched on Thursday, December 5 at a special event in Room 1139, Western's Faculty of Education Building at 11 a.m. A parallel event is scheduled for the same time at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

"There is very little Canadian data about the scope and impact of domestic violence on workers and workplaces, making it difficult for workers, unions, employers, and governments to make evidence-informed policies and deliver effective services," says Nadine Wathen, a professor at Western's Faculty of Information and Media Studies, who examines women's health decision-making in her research. "We do know that having a job helps women leave a violent relationship."

"This survey will help all of us to realize that what happens at home can have a profound impact on what happens at work and it will guide us to see where there are opportunities to keep workers and the whole workplace safe," adds Barb MacQuarrie, Community Director at Western's Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC).

The survey is online and available in English and French until June 6, 2014.  Any worker over the age of 15 is encouraged to complete the survey, whether or not they have personally experienced or witnessed domestic violence. It is completely anonymous and takes 10 to 30 minutes to complete.

CLC, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.3 million Canadian workers. It brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils.

"Although unions have worked hard to pressure governments to pass workplace violence legislation that offers some protection for workers experiencing violence at home, it is still not enough," says Barbara Byers, CLC's Executive Vice President.

"Domestic violence doesn't stop when a women leaves for work," says Lise Martin, the Executive Director of the Canadian Network of Women's Shelters & Transition Houses. "And the costs to her workplace, her colleagues can be considerable, not to mention his workplace and colleagues."

One goal of the survey is to raise awareness among employers and workers about the impacts of domestic violence, before it is too late.

"It is sadly, at the doors of health care services where we see the impact of domestic violence. This survey will help lift the cloud of secrecy linking safety at home and safety at work," says Linda Silas, the President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU).

Citing the upcoming National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, Byers says that the labour movement believes that workplaces in general, including some unionized workplaces, still need better paid leave or unpaid leave options to help people deal with all of the effects of domestic violence. This includes time to deal with legal issues, as well as access to physical, emotional or mental health services.

"December 6th is an occasion to remember young women who lost their lives to gender-based violence. But it is also a time to commit to action," says Byers."Unions are uniquely placed to make a real difference to the lives of workers who may be experiencing violence in the home. And that makes work safer, for everyone."

CREVAWC joined Western's Faculty of Education in 2001. Founded in 1992 as a collaborative venture between Western, Fanshawe College and the London Coordinating Committee to End Women Abuse (a large organization comprised of violence against women service providers), CREVAWC was established in response to a federal study on the problem of violence against women, triggered by the 1989 murder of 14 women at École Polytechnique in Montreal.

"Domestic violence is devastating lives of Canadian workers and it is costing Canadian workplaces in lost productivity, absenteeism and turn over," says MacQuarrie. "It's easy to ignore those facts without evidence. This survey will change that."