Domestic Violence: A Union Issue

October 30, 2015

Can work be safe when home isn’t?

Faced with a lack of Canadian data on this question, the Canadian Labour Congress has been exploring the crisis of domestic violence and how it affects all aspects of victims' lives, including their working lives. 

In 2014, the CLC partnered with researchers at the Western University’s Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children. Together, we launched a groundbreaking Canada-wide survey of workers on the impact of domestic violence on workers and workplaces.  

The survey yielded startling results.  We found that:

  • One in three Canadian workers has experienced domestic violence, and just as many believe they have co-workers who have
  • Seven percent of survey respondents reported they were currently experiencing domestic violence
  • Domestic violence follows its victims to work, with over 53% of victims reporting having experienced abusive calls or text messages, stalking, calls to employers or co-workers. The vast majority reported that domestic violence affected their work performance in some way, for example, due to being distracted, tired, or unwell
  • Over a third reported that domestic violence affected their ability to get to work, and 8.9% lost a job because of domestic violence

Domestic violence negatively affects work performance and workplace safety, not just for the victim but for co-workers as well. Other research has shown that men who commit domestic violence also experience workplace impacts, and that employers lose over 77 million annually due to the direct and indirect impacts of domestic violence.

Unions work to keep people safe on the job, and this includes ensuring that victims of domestic violence are safe and supported at work. Since publishing the results of our survey, the Canadian Labour Congress and its affiliates have been building awareness of domestic violence and its impacts on workers and the workplace among union members and leadership.

We have developed this online set of tools and resources to help build awareness, empower union representatives respond effectively to domestic violence at work, and to help unions negotiate better workplace supports, like paid leave and safety planning. The CLC and its affiliates will be launching even more resources soon, including a new set of courses and workshops.

There is an important role for governments to play in helping address domestic violence at work. We need better workplace health and safety legislation that recognizes domestic violence and its impacts at work, and improved community supports and services for victims and offenders. 

Ultimately, preventing violence and its consequences is a collective social challenge; one place that positive change can happen – for victims, offenders and employers – is the workplace. Unions are ready to take this on and make work safer for everyone.

Because an injury to one is an injury to all.