woman sitting by the ocean

Domestic Violence Goes to Work

Woman walks down the hall

This post was originally published on pamelacross.ca. Pamela is a member of the Gender Equality Network Canada.

Canada’s landscape has been strewn with domestic violence homicides this year, with the number of women killed already significantly higher than it usually is for the entire year. And, it must be remembered, the number of women killed is only the tip of the iceberg of the number of women subjected to abuse in their relationships.

Many of those women, whether still in an abusive relationship, on their way out of it or already establishing themselves separate from their abuser, work outside the home. Both the abuse itself and the impact of it can enter a woman’s workplace. Her abuser may stalk her as she comes and goes from work, harass her while she is working, threaten her and/or her coworkers and even enter the workplace to physically harm her. In extreme situations, women are killed at work by their partner or former partner.

As a result, the woman may be distracted, have unexplained absences, come to work with injuries or need to take time away from work to address legal, medical and other issues; all of which can affect her job performance and possibly even her ability to hold on to her employment.

What we know

In 2014, the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) at Western University and the Canadian Labour Congress partnered to conduct a groundbreaking survey about domestic violence and work.

The survey elicited responses from almost 8,500 workers across the country. One-third of respondents indicated they were in an abusive relationship. Of those, 82% said it had a negative impact on their work performance. 40% told the researchers that the abuse interfered with their ability to get to work, 10% reported losing jobs because of the abuse and more than 50% said that the abuse continued at or near their workplace.

This research laid the groundwork for political advocacy to change employment legislation to better protect victims of domestic violence.

Keeping safe at work

Earlier this month, the federal government announced that it is introducing changes to the Canada Labour Code to provide some victims of domestic violence with up to 10 days of leave per calendar year. Workers who qualify will be paid for five of those 10 days. This leave time is intended to provide time for victims to seek medical assistance, meet with a lawyer, find housing and otherwise cope with their situation.

The new legislation will cover approximately 900,000 private sector employees who work in federally regulated workplaces, such as banks, telecommunication and air and rail travel. Government employees are not covered by this initiative, but can seek domestic violence leave through their collective bargaining process. PSAC, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, has indicated that this will be a top priority in its next round of negotiations.

Provinces ahead of the feds

In Canada, many provinces have already introduced domestic violence leave to their employment standards legislation.The leaves vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, with some (Alberta and Saskatchewan) offering protected unpaid leave and others offering a combination of paid and unpaid protected leave.

In Ontario, for instance. a victim of domestic or sexual violence can take up to 10 days as well as 15 weeks of job-protected leave, with the first five days of that leave being paid. Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec offer variations on this approach.

Bringing domestic violence out of the shadows and into the open in workplaces across the country will help to end the stigma associated with intimate partner abuse; letting employees know they are supported by their employer will have a positive impact on productivity.

These are important steps to assisting women develop and maintain financial security so their decisions are not driven by their need to remain with an abuser out of economic dependency.


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2 responses to “Domestic Violence Goes to Work”

  1. keq says:

    I beat all odds. Supporting myself since 15 and putting myself through college I had been employed with the Ontario Government for 110 years. I see now why I chose to marry my abuser. abuse has always been my normal. I worked hard. I was char of the united Way, Union Steward and even being awarded at the Ontario legislature for my impact in the community through my volunteer work. I was severely abused by my husband. After my husband was convicted in 2010- and with the guidance to programs he was to complete I took him back. Those programs I helped raise money for, failed me. There was failure in duty to report and mandates weren’t met. I found his workbook that was not only extremely disturbing , it was incomplete, yet he passed and I was led to believe the programs took there mission seriously. This is just one agency I turned to that failed me. My human rights were violated and everything I had accomplished is now gone. Can you believe he wasn’t safe enough to let out into the town we lived but my abuser who has the most extensive record spanning years and all areas of the law, has my daughter. I suffer from the crippling effects of his cptsd oh and ya…I was actually diagnosed bipolar in a janiter closet at a hospital I paid huge money to . That was the only time I met the doctor and well, wtf. I know do drugs numb my pain and my only contact with anyone is the clients who hire me because im a prostitute. I never got to say my victim impact statement when he was convicted and he never spent a day in jail. I however live in the prison he along with government funded agencies and courts have sentenced me to. Im a lot better than I was and I still look for help but its exhausting when there isn’t anything or anyone that is in my life. Im not the only one this happens to,. Mandates were not met and my human rights were violated but what does it mattr?> who is going to believe a prostitute and really what does it matter.

  2. K EQ says:

    I beat all odds. Supporting myself since 15 and putting myself through college I had been employed with the Ontario Government for 110 years. I see now why I chose to marry my abuser. abuse has always been my normal. I worked hard. I was char of the united Way, Union Steward and even being awarded at the Ontario legislature for my impact in the community through my volunteer work. I was severely abused by my husband. After my husband was convicted in 2010- and with the guidance to programs he was to complete I took him back. Those programs I helped raise money for, failed me. There was failure in duty to report and mandates weren’t met. I found his workbook that was not only extremely disturbing , it was incomplete, yet he passed and I was led to believe the programs took there mission seriously. This is just one agency I turned to that failed me. My human rights were violated and everything I had accomplished is now gone. Can you believe he wasn’t safe enough to let out into the town we lived but my abuser who has the most extensive record spanning years and all areas of the law, has my daughter. I suffer from the crippling effects of his cptsd oh and ya…I was actually diagnosed bipolar in a janiter closet at a hospital I paid huge money to . That was the only time I met the doctor and well, wtf. I know do drugs numb my pain and my only contact with anyone is the clients who hire me because im a prostitute. I never got to say my victim impact statement when he was convicted and he never spent a day in jail. I however live in the prison he along with government funded agencies and courts have sentenced me to. Im a lot better than I was and I still look for help but its exhausting when there isn’t anything or anyone that is in my life. Im not the only one this happens to,. Mandates were not met and my human rights were violated but what does it mattr?> who is going to believe a prostitute and really what does it matter.

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