Dos and don’ts for union stewards, OH&S and other union reps

November 27, 2015

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 take all possible measures to respect the confidentiality of the victim.
Don’t promise the victim 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 a victim discloses 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 victim at work, as this information is extremely helpful in supporting the victim, their coworkers, and ensuring the workplace remains safe.
Don’t pass judgment on the scenario or try to force the victim 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.
Don’t feel you need all the answers – at any time, refer the victim to a professional resource or trained support (such as a woman’s advocate, local women’s shelter, or the Police Domestic Violence Coordinator).

Do ensure the victim feels they have control over what steps are taken.
Don’t insist you know what’s best for the victim. 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 victim as to how you can support them best and allow them to have a space to feel comfortable.  

Do discuss a safety plan with the victim. Your workplace may already have a policy in place, however, ensure it is adapted to the specific needs of the victim 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 a SNCit conversation with your co-worker. 

(adapted from the Centre for Gender Related violence Studies)