Employers and governments are increasingly offering support for workers dealing with domestic violence. (iStock)

More victims of domestic violence get leave from work


The Canadian government has reached an agreement with one of its largest unions to provide paid time off for civil servants who suffer domestic violence. And providing leave for such people appears to be a growing trend in Canada.

Research by Western University and The Canadian Labour Congress from 2014 found that one third of respondents had experienced domestic violence in their lifetime and of those, more than half said the violence followed them to work.  

“It could have been harassing phone calls, emails, text messages,” says Barb MacQuarrie of Western University’s Centre for Research and education on Violence Against Women and Children. “It could have been the abusive partner calling the boss…or supervisors (asking) ‘where is she, what is she doing, when will she leave, when is she expected back.’ It could have been stalking at the workplace.” 

A 2014 survey found one third of respondents had suffered domestic violence and over half of those said it followed them to work. (iStock)

Employers concerned about productivity, safety

MacQuarrie says the results drew more attention to the issue and more action. In 2017, Manitoba was the first province to change its labour code to provide leave from work for employees dealing with domestic violence. Others jurisdictions followed suit, some offering paid leave, unpaid leave or a combination of both.  And she says employers became interested too.

“We know that there are really many productivity concerns, safety concerns, and if there’s an incident, even reputational damage that can happen for a company as a result of domestic violence.” So, some companies have gone ahead and provided leave from work to help employees dealing with domestic violence. 

International awareness growing

MacQuarrie thinks the trend will continue not only in Canada but in other countries as well. She notes the International Labour Organization just recently passed a new international convention on harassment and violence at work. It includes some protections for workers experiencing domestic violence. So, MacQuarrie thinks that countries like Canada, which is expected to sign on, will enact more helpful policies. “I think that we can absolutely expect to see more legislation and more employer policies as well going in this direction of providing support for survivors of domestic violence.”

Western University’s Barb MacQuarrie explains why more support is being offered to survivors of domestic violence.

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