Federally regulated employers will have new responsibilities to prevent and respond to domestic violence and harassment starting on Jan. 1, and Western is setting up resources to help them comply with the changes to the Canada Labour Code.
The Faculty of Education’s Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children (CREVAWC) will provide domestic violence training for workers and employers in partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress and the Federally Regulated Employers – Transportation and Communications. CREVAWC received $2.088-million in funding from the Government of Canada’s Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Fund to develop this training.
A website, www.DVatwork.ca, has been created to provide tools, training and resources to address the impacts of domestic violence in the workplace, recognizing that abuse does not always stay at home, but also comes to work.
Barb MacQuarrie, community director of CREVAWC, said the website will give workers, union representatives and employers more confidence to discuss domestic violence. They will gain the tools to respond to disclosures from survivors rather than look the other way in fear of making a situation worse. The training also aims to reduce the stigma of those experiencing violence at home.
“Domestic violence is not a private matter,” said MacQuarrie. “Workers who are impacted by domestic violence – whether as someone experiencing abuse, acting abusively towards their partner, or those who witness the abuse – are often distracted at work, stressed about the situation, and it can impact workplace safety.”
The website also helps organizations assess their workplace culture, senior leadership support, workplace policies and collective agreements as well as their occupational health and safety programs, education and training, employee assistance programs and relationships with domestic violence and community organizations.
“We are seeing a similar shift towards assigning more responsibility for employers to prevent and address domestic violence at work in legislation across the country, and even around the world,” said MacQuarrie. “In the long run, I expect that employers will see concrete benefits – safer workplaces and an improved bottom line as a result.”
Bill C-65 updated the Canada Labour Code, requiring federally regulated workplaces to prevent domestic violence and harassment and to support workers affected by these behaviours. Domestic violence is recognized as a form of workplace harassment, and employers must assess risks for workers and have polices that specify action to address them.
Domestic violence affects one out of three workers in Canada, according to a CREVAWC report, ‘Can Work Be Safe, When Home Isn’t?’ Negative effects for workers include distraction due to harassing messages, fatigue due to loss of sleep, and depression and anxiety.
“We don’t want employers to feel daunted by these new responsibilities,” said MacQuarrie. There are many community-based experts willing to work collaboratively with them to keep employees safe and even to support behavioural change for abusers, she said.