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Domestic Violence and Its Effects on the Workplace

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Some experts assert that domestic violence is tantamount to workplace violence, since it indirectly affects the work environment. However, many employers fail to recognize the gravity of the situation and its considerable negative effects upon their organizations.

However, making the effort in the workplace to address domestic violence is a win-win both for employees and for companies. This is not to say that it’s easy to identify victims of domestic abuse within a company. In fact, many companies don’t realize there is a problem until it affects them.


However, the truth is that 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner every year. These assaults often cause grave harm, including harm to victims’ professional stability.

For example, what sometimes happens is that the abusive partner will resort to work-disruptive tactics. Presumably, the abuser intends by these strategies to jeopardize their partner’s job stability. Some of the most common maneuvers include physically restraining a person when they try to leave for work or hiding their car keys.

These situations may not be completely preventable. However, companies must take serious measures to protect both their businesses and their employees. These efforts will reduce healthcare costs, legal risks, and absenteeism.

Developing a Team

Domestic violence is no longer a private affair when the office becomes the setting for continued abuse through stalking or harassing phone calls. However, when this happens, victims of domestic violence are more likely to share their experiences with a coworker.

For this reason, some companies choose to train their employees to recognize early warning signs of domestic violence. For example, employees learn to look for the following signs:

  • Decreased employee morale
  • Reduced work interest and productivity
  • Lashing out at coworkers or clients
  • Constrained co-worker relations

When supervisors fail to recognize these signs as symptoms of domestic violence, the affected staff member could be dismissed. This can increase replacement, training, and recruitment costs.

However, companies can develop plans for addressing such situations while ensuring confidentiality and safety for the staff member involved.

Offering Support

Fortunately, a recent study has shown that many HR directors are knowledgeable about the threat of domestic violence and its effects on the workplace. Nonetheless, it can be difficult to initiate a conversation with an affected employee about such a personal matter.

One way of opening up a dialogue might be for a supervisor to acknowledge that their role is not to be a counselor. Instead, they could offer to help the employee identify solutions.

To this end, the supervisor might give an overview of the company’s existing supportive policies and procedures. Additionally, the supervisor could also suggest that the abused employee might seek alternative housing or even turn to an attorney for domestic violence.

When talking with an employee who’s experiencing domestic abuse, a supervisor’s primary role should be to:

  • Offer initial support
  • Discuss necessary steps to help the employee in the working environment
  • Recommend the employee access resources such as an employee assistance program

Training Your Employees in the Three R’s

Recent studies have shown that victims of domestic violence are more likely to ask their coworkers for help than their employer.

Therefore, employees need a strong program that focuses on identifying and responding to such situations with a sensitive approach. Such a program should include the three R’s: Recognize, Respond, and Refer.

Workplace violence training, such as this, empowers employees to support victims of violence by referring them to resources where they can receive special assistance, contributing to a 60% decline in violent incidents.

Taking a Cue from Other Companies’ Responses to Domestic Violence

The telecommunications company Vodafone recently announced they’ll offer up to ten days of paid leave to employees who are experiencing domestic violence. This policy gives victims the necessary time to look for special help, care for their children, or move away from the abuser.

Offering Stability and Reliability to Victims of Domestic Violence

Neglecting the effects of domestic violence in the workplace could expose your company to considerable financial and legal risks. In other words, companies have a duty to protect their employees.

This legal opinion is based on OSHA regulations that require employers to offer their workers a workplace free from “recognized hazards.” For example, if an employee has obtained a restraining order, the employer needs to adopt proper measures in that regard.

Additionally, the employer must also recognize that this could be a threat to the entire company and take necessary precautions.