Domestic Violence in Canada Widespread, Impacting Work

December 3, 2014 Updated: December 3, 2014

Domestic violence is widespread in Canada and negatively affects people’s ability to work, according to a new report on the impacts of domestic violence in the workplace.

Based on research by the Canadian Labour Congress and the University of Western Ontario, the report found that more than a third of Canadian workers have experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives.

Of those, the vast majority (82 percent) said the abuse by their partners negatively affected their performance at work, mostly because of being distracted or feeling tired or unwell.

For over half of the respondents, the abuse didn’t end at home, as they continued to experience some sort of abuse at the work place, such as receiving harassing phone calls or being stalked by the abuser.

“We were startled to learn how much domestic violence follows people to work,” Barb MacQuarrie, community director with Western University’s Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, said in a press release.

The report showed that domestic violence also has an impact on victims’ ability to get to work, with over a third of respondents saying the experience caused them to be late or miss work. Close to 9 percent said they lost their job because of having experienced domestic violence.

Only a minority of those experiencing domestic violence discussed the issue at work with a supervisor or a co-worker, the report says.

“I lived in a constant state of fear, worried that telling anyone would just make him even more violent,” Melissa Corbeil, a domestic violence survivor, said in the release.

“In the end I was lucky, because my co-workers and my boss did support me, but that isn’t always the case.”

The report sponsors hope their findings will lead to better support for people experiencing domestic violence.

“These results point to an urgent need for action on the part of unions, employers, and governments at all levels to ensure people like Melissa can find the support they need in the workplace,” MacQuarrie said.

Canadian Labour Congress president Hassan Yussuff said that in order to increase support for victims of domestic violence, his organization would be negotiating for paid leave for victims in collective agreements, and ensuring union representatives are trained to provide appropriate support in the workplace to the victims, among other negotiations.

Research by the federal Department of Justice has put the annual economic cost of direct and indirect domestic violence at $77.9 million.

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