According to the Center for Disease Control, one in every four women and one in every ten men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Physical and mental abuse at the hands of an intimate partner affects every aspect of the victim’s life, including the ability to work. According to Legal Momentum, victims of domestic violence lose about 137 hours of work per year, and causes victims to lose the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs per year. The Department of Labor reports similar statistics, with victims losing 8 million hours of work per year.
The pervasiveness of domestic violence in the United States means that employers, human resource officers, and workplace safety manager have a responsibility to help victims. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 65% of companies do not have formal workplace violence prevention policy. The survey also found that only 20% of companies offered a training on domestic violence. There are many ways that employers can do better to protect employees who may be struggling with domestic or partner violence in the workplace or in their personal lives.
Given the prevalence of this issue, it’s important to have an employee policy that provides protections for victims of domestic violence. These include mandates that would keep employees safe at work, keep their job, help them get time off to go to court or recover from injuries sustained from domestic abuse. If these rules are written into the employee manual, it can be a resource for anyone who might be struggling. It’s also important to post these policies in the workplace, and make human resources available to employees who might be struggling with a difficult situation. In many instances, employees might be concerned about work performance or losing their jobs, which can be mitigated by keeping lines of communication open.
How to Address Domestic Violence in the Workplace
The first step to addressing domestic violence in the workplace is to acknowledge the issue. While employers may not believe that domestic violence can impact the workplace, the issue does not have bounds. For victims, the violence can impact every element of their life. Once a company realizes that the workplace has a responsibility to address this issue, it might worry managers that the infrastructure is not equipped to handle issues of this kind.
In an interview with SHRM, Kim Wells, executive director of the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence said that employers don’t have to be experts to help. “Once employers understand that domestic violence can impact their workplace, their next fear is that they’re not equipped to address the issue. And that’s true, but they’re not expected to be experts,” Wells said. “While we want managers and supervisors and co-workers to be trained about domestic violence and its impact on the workplace, and how to respond and get people to the help they need, we do not want them to take on a role that should be filled by those professionally trained to help.”
Once a company has decided what role to take on in addressing domestic violence, they can craft a response program that hires professional help for employees who are victims. A well crafted response plan will include several steps that accommodate employees who are victims, whether it is addressing a workplace issue or providing support. These plans don't mean that human resource steams need to directly tackle these issues, but rather provide the correct tools and guidance to keep employees safe.
Leveraging Technology to Help Domestic Violence Victims
While managers might be reluctant to discuss something that affects people’s personal lives, it's crucial for company safety to include a protocol for domestic violence situations. Technology can play a major role in helping HR provide outreach and help for victims, beginning with an anonymous 2-way tip texting system. This tool allows employees to communicate safety concerns, whether it involves workplace violence or violence experienced outside the office, without compromising their own safety. If a fellow employee is concerned for a coworkers safety, this also provides an avenue to help this person get help without jeopardizing the workplace relationship. In many of these scenarios, victims are especially likely to be hesitant to reach out, and a two-way tip texting tool can be an important communication solution for safety managers.
If an employee is not able to manage their safety outside of the office, there is a risk that the violence in the home can be brought into the workplace. If an abusive spouse or significant other enters a workplace, a workplace safety app allows employees to either contact 9-1-1 directly or alert safety managers so that they may respond to the incident accordingly. This way, local law enforcement can arrive on the scene faster with the correct information about the threat. Not only will the workplace be better equipped to protect the employee experiencing domestic violence, it will also improve the safety of the company community as a whole.
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