No business is immune to the effects of domestic violence, but organizations can take action to protect their employees while minimizing their risk.
The effects of domestic violence are not limited to victims with at least 44% of those who work with a victim of domestic violence report feeling personally impacted.
For organizations who may employ either victims or perpetrators, domestic violence can impact the individuals involved as well as those around them, leading to a ripple effect of lost productivity, legal concerns, and other costs, not to mention the risk of an incident occurring at work.
According to the most recent National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, approximately a third of women and a quarter of men report being the victim of violence by a partner at some point in their lives. This means the likelihood of an employee being either a victim or perpetrator is higher than many may realize.
It is important to note that domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse. It can include any range of assaultive and coercive behaviours used by an individual to hurt, dominate or control and intimate a partner or family member, such as stalking, emotional or verbal abuse, financial control and more.
While this is a difficult subject matter to tackle within the workplace, taking a proactive approach to domestic violence can help organizations simultaneously protect their employees while minimizing their risk.
The impact on the workplace
Domestic violence impacts people of all ages, races and backgrounds, including employed adults. Although domestic violence is not always physical, tragically, 78% of women killed in the workplace between 2003 and 2008 were murdered by their abuser.
Domestic violence is estimated to cost businesses some $70 million each year in lost productivity. Employee turnover is also a contributing factor with up to 60% of employees experiencing domestic violence reported losing their job as a result, either because they were fired or had to quit.
The effects of domestic violence are not limited to victims with at least 44% of those who worked with a victim of domestic violence reported feeling personally impacted, including concern for their own safety. This can also have a devastating effect on workplace morale.
Recognizing instances of domestic violence
In order to effectively support employees experiencing domestic violence it is critical to understand some of the common signs that may indicate a problem:
Lack of concentration
Wearing concealing clothing, even in warm weather
Depression and/or anxiety
Change in performance attitude
Frequent breaks or appointments with friends/family
Receipt of harassing phone calls
If an employee demonstrates any of these red flags, intervening in a sensitive and private manner can make a difference and encourage them to seek help before the problem escalates. In order to be most effective, it is beneficial for managers and other employees to be prepared to handle this important yet personal matter. Yet surprisingly, 65% of respondents to a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management reported that their organization does not have a policy or program in place to prevent or address domestic violence.
It is important for organizations to realize that domestic violence does not solely happen outside working hours – a survey from the National Safe Workplace Institute found that 94% of corporate security directors reported domestic violence as a high security issue at their organization. Keep in mind the workplace is somewhere perpetrators know they can locate their victim. This increases risk and liability for businesses, which can also lead to additional costs, especially without a plan in place to address this issue.
A proactive approach
Many organizations may be hesitant to get involved in instances of domestic abuse or violence. Yet organizations have the potential to make a big difference by stepping in early and supporting employees, making it critical to have a comprehensive prevention and response plan ready.
- A first step maybe to analyse past incidents, assess the potential for issues and determine current preparedness. Taking the time to review this information will help create a plan that meets the organization’s unique needs.
- Develop comprehensive policy. Based on the results of the assessment, this should include internal reporting procedures, support mechanisms for victims, including enhanced security measures, and disciplinary procedures for perpetrators.
- Implement company-wide training. In order for the policy to be effective, it is important to raise awareness of the issue and educate both managers and employees on how to identify potential situations, follow reporting procedures and respond appropriately. This may also include what to do if an incident happens at work.
- Ensure employees are in the know – Get the message out to the workforce through a variety of channels, including newsletters, posters in break rooms or restrooms, the intranet and more. This can include information about the company’s program as well as how to access available resources, such as EAP Assist.