Health and safety

Protecting Employees from Family Violence: What Employers Can Do

May 11, 2017

Family violence is a serious problem in Canada. The most recent edition of Statistics Canada’s profile on family violence states that over one quarter of all violent crimes that were reported to police resulted from family violence. According to the Department of Justice, family violence is any form of abuse, mistreatment, or neglect that a child or adult experiences from a family member, or from someone with whom they have an intimate relationship. It can include physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse, and also neglect, and rarely occurs in singular instances but instead as a pattern of behaviour.

While family violence obviously has a negative effect on the people directly involved, it can also place a great deal of strain on the surrounding community, including the workplace. In fact, since the negative consequences very regularly follow affected individuals to their place of work, many jurisdictions in Canada have deemed family violence to be a type of workplace violence. Accordingly, Canadian employers have a responsibility to help manage family violence, and to protect their employees’ safety.

In recent years, there has been a notable trend in Canada to provide additional supports and services to Canadians affected by family violence, including regulations governing the workplace. Significant changes include the addition of protected leaves for victims of family violence, changes to employment standards, and changes to occupational health and safety standards to include sexual violence and intimate partner violence as workplace safety concerns. While not all the legislative amendments have been finalized (bills affecting protected leaves in British Columbia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan are all currently before their respective legislative assemblies), more changes are likely imminent, and will affect how employers are expected to legally do business.

Safety is more than just a legal obligation or good business practice; it is also a social obligation to help support employees. By ensuring legislative compliance and implementing proactive strategies, organizations can do their part in preventing family violence. Download our FREE best practice guide for things you as an employer should know about reducing the effects of family violence in the workplace.

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Source: Statistics Canada, Family Violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2014, Department of Justice, Family Violence

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