What To Look For

As employers, managers and supervisors there are flags and warning signs that can alert us to potential issues. We also need to be aware of employee’s interpersonal relationships with each other because often co-workers are the first to be alerted to any problems. The spectrum below indicates four main areas to be aware of but nothing is carved in stone and we must all use our own judgment in supporting those who count on us for a safe workplace.

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Healthy

Normal workplace functions. The partner is either supportive or indifferent. The employee is doing well in a calm, steady manner. The employee appears to be in control, behaving ethically & morally. Their demeanour, dress and their office interpersonal style can be noted as a baseline.

Partner

  • Supportive
  • Non-Interfering

Employee

  • Calm, Steady & In Control
  • Performing Well
  • Behaving Ethically & Morally
  • Socially Active

Employer Response

  • Get to know employees
  • Be approachable
  • Practice active listening
  • Note usual employee behaviours
  • Promote empathy
  • Reduce stigma
  • Advocate healthy workplace

Reacting

There are possible signs the employee’s partner is attempting control by interfering with transportation and access to the workplace.  They may attempt interference in the workplace through excessive interruptions.  The partner may also attempt to involve other employees by inappropriate questioning.  Trust your instincts.

Partner

  • Interfering with transportation
  • Hiding or stealing ID cards
  • Excessive calls, texts, emails
  • Questioning co-workers

Employee

  • Often late for work
  • Nervous, anxious
  • Hiding injuries
  • Decreased productivity
  • Poor concentration
  • Occasional loss of emotional control

Employer Response

  • Monitor behaviours & note changes
  • Actively listen to concerns
  • Identify unhealthy situations
  • Minimize stressors
  • Be empathetic
  • Gently intervene
  • Consult with experts
  • Identify resources
  • Refer where practical

Concern

There are signs the employee’s domestic situation is deteriorating. This requires you to intervene to assist the employee and ensure workplace safety. You need to increase vigilance and address any unacceptable employee behaviour, which may present an opportunity to promptly intervene and prevent escalation.

The time may have arrived to involve external resources.  Empathize with the employee and do not exhibit anger towards the partner. Accommodate the employee or employees who can help.  It is essential to maintain contact with the employee in order to ensure support and monitor the situation.  Minimize rumours but honour confidentiality.

Partner

  • Interfering at workplace
  • Threatening deportation
  • Deceiving co-workers
  • Verbally abusive to employee(s)

Employee

  • Missing work
  • Overlooking appearance details
  • Forgetting important things
  • Impaired decision making
  • Increased accidental injuries
  • Nervous in partner’s presence

Employer Response

  • Increase vigilance
  • Address unacceptable behaviour
  • Intervene promptly
  • Involve resources
  • Empathize
  • Accommodate employee(s)
  • Maintain contact with employee
  • Ensure support
  • Minimize rumours

Crisis

The situation is out of hand.  Safety and security are paramount.  Action is unquestionably required. You must sustain vigilance and ensure workplace safety for all.  You may have to involve security/law enforcement personnel.  If possible, sustain employee contact and continue to empathize.  Ensure resources & support are available for the employee.

If practical, continue to include the employee in work activities.  Be encouraging to all your employees and, where appropriate, keep them informed.  Everyone should be vigilant, know workplace safety plans and must involve management & supervisor with observations or concerns. We are in this together.

Partner

  • Physically restraining employee
  • Threatening employee(s)
  • Destroying property
  • Physically harming employee(s)

Employee

  • Avoiding or withdrawing
  • Fearful
  • Memory lapses
  • Cannot perform duties
  • Injuries
  • Loss of control

Employer Response

  • Maintain vigilance
  • Ensure workplace safety
  • Involve security/law enforcement
  • Maintain employee contact
  • Empathize
  • Ensure resources & support
  • Accommodate medical limitations
  • Include employee in work activities
  • Encourage

What You Can Do

Talking To Your Employees

Co-workers who engage other co-workers and are approachable contribute strong threads to the social fabric and are the most likely people for the employee to disclose domestic violence to.  Employees who practice active listening and openness are approachable and help monitor workplace wellness.  They can note usual co-worker behaviours and notice changes. Positivity helps productivity, encourage employees to reduce stigma and to advocate for a healthy workplace.

Employer Actions

YOUR LEADERSHIP MATTERS.

BE PROACTIVE and set the tone for your business.

BE APPROACHABLE and knowledgeable about your employees.

BE THE PRIMARY ADVOCATE for a healthy workplace. If your instincts tell you that something isn’t quite right, intervene early before the situation gets out of hand.

REMEMBER TO KEEP YOUR EMPLOYEES SAFE. If the employee appears to reconcile with the partner, remember the cycle of abuse.  Remain vigilant because the cycle is likely to continue.

PROMPTLY ADDRESS any concerns about domestic violence you might have with the employee as they emerge.  Here are some practical points on how to gently intervene.

Addressing Domestic Violence with an Employee

Knowing how to start a conversation about family violence with an employee can be difficult. Your role as an employer or supervisor is not to be a counsellor, but rather to approach the employee in a professional, sensitive manner and find out what help is required and where the employee can find it.

Offer to meet employee in private so that confidentiality can be respected.  Clearly identify any observed employee job performance problems that have emerged.  Express empathy about personal issues interfering with work performance.  Remember, family violence victims and offenders can be of either sex.  Use respectful language: “your partner” or their name; avoid using labels “abuser” or “batterer”.  Be supportive and avoid accusing, blaming, diagnosing or drawing conclusions.  Listen (a lot) and support employee to seek help.  This is about them.