Dos and don’ts for union stewards, occupational health and safety reps and other union reps

November 5, 2019

Do ensure members are aware of the impacts of domestic violence at work and feel safe to reach out for support from their workplace and union.
Don’t treat scenarios of domestic violence at work as topics for gossip and small talk amongst employees.

Do ensure the person experiencing domestic violence feels they have control over what steps are taken.
Don’t insist you know what’s best for the person experiencing violence or try to convince them to leave the relationship. Each situation of domestic violence is different and it’s impossible to know what’s best unless you’re involved. Again, always defer to the person experiencing violence as to how you can best support them and allow them to have a space to feel comfortable.

Do take all possible measures to respect the confidentiality of the person experiencing domestic violence.
Don’t promise the person experiencing violence that you will keep the secret no matter what, as you may need to report the incident to someone else if there is an immediate threat of harm.

Do be compassionate, patient and calm if someone discloses experiencing abuse to you. It may be the first time they’ve ever spoken about domestic violence and it may be hard for them to admit.
Don’t take on the victim’s experiences as your own personal responsibility. Never try to “fix” a scenario of domestic abuse, but rather offer support.

Do inquire how domestic violence is impacting the person at work, as this information is extremely helpful in supporting the person experiencing domestic violence and their co‑workers, and ensuring the workplace remains safe.
Don’t pass judgment on the scenario or try to force the person experiencing abuse into taking certain actions at home or in the workplace. First and foremost, your job is to listen.

Do suggest the victim keep a written record of the domestic violence incidents that impacted their work life. If the worker is concerned that their abuser may find the written record consider sharing this link with ideas for how to safely store records of abuse.
Don’t feel you need all the answers. At any time, refer the worker to a professional resource or trained support (such as a woman’s advocate, local women’s shelter, or the Domestic Violence Coordinator of your local police service).

Do discuss a safety plan with the person experiencing domestic violence. Your workplace may already have a policy in place; however, ensure it is adapted to the specific needs of the worker you are speaking with.
Don’t stay quiet if you see warning signs of domestic violence (especially if they are high risk). Listen to your intuition and wait for the right time and place to have an SNCit conversation with your co-worker.

If the person you suspect is experiencing abuse is working remotely follow these dos and don’ts:

Do make sure all workers have access to information on warning signs of abuse, high risk factors, domestic violence leave information, and local resources and supports through an intranet, newsletter, or other workplace-specific communication network.
Don’t try to have a conversation about your concerns with a work over video call or phone because you cannot guarantee they are alone and in a safe place to have this conversation.

(adapted from the Centre for Gender Related Violence Studies)