Creating Awareness of Workplace Domestic Violence

Person sad with their head in their hands

Creating caring, empathetic and supportive environments where faculty and staff feel safe discussing challenging and sensitive issues is essential for leaders.

Mental, physical, social and spiritual wellbeing have a direct impact on engagement in the workplace.

The topic of domestic violence was once thought to be taboo and a private concern in one’s home rather than an issue for the workplace. Recent changes to the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act  make it clear that domestic violence concerns all of us.

  • More than half of all workers suffering from domestic violence are victimized at work.
  • The estimated cost of domestic violence in Canada is over $6.9 billion. 
  • 54% of those experiencing domestic violence miss three or more days of work a month. 
  • Studies suggest that the majority of workplace disclosures of domestic violence are made to a colleague or a manager/supervisor. 

Source: MakeitOurBusiness

Alberta’s OHS Act outlines the responsibility and expectation of employers to raise awareness of the prevalence of domestic violence and the supports and services available. 

The Alberta OHS Act states, 

When an employer is aware that a worker is or is likely to be exposed to domestic violence at a work site, the employer must take reasonable precautions to protect the worker and any other persons at the work site likely to be affected. 

Domestic violence can have serious implications for your workplace, including: 

  • reduced employee productivity and motivation.
  • loss of focus, which can also lead to increased risk of injury. 
  • increased absenteeism.
  • replacement, recruitment, and training costs if victims are injured or dismissed for poor  performance.
  • higher company health expenses.
  • decreased worker morale.
  • strained co-worker relations.
  • potential harm to employees, co-workers, and/or clients when a violent abuser enters the workplace.
  • liability costs if a member of the public or another employee in the workplace is harmed. 
  • harm, injury or death of the employee.

Source: WorkSafe BC

Warning Signs For the Workplace 

The majority of disclosures of domestic violence are made to coworkers and managers/supervisors. There are a number of workplace warning signs that could signal concern. 

  • absenteeism or lateness for work.
  • change in work performance, concentration and quality.
  • reluctance to leave work.
  • requests for accommodations to leave early or to change schedules.
  • isolation from colleagues and coworkers.
  • change in appearance (heavy make-up) and choice of clothing (turtleneck and long sleeves).

Source: A detailed listing can be found at  

Common warning signs of abusive behaviour include:

  • constant calls to their partner while at work.
  • blames others for their problems (partner, parent, child).
  • lacks accountability.
  • does not accept criticism well, becomes defensive or hostile.

How leaders can help

  • create a psychologically healthy, safe and supportive workplace culture where individuals feel supported disclosing concerns and challenges.
  • Familiarize yourself and raise awareness within your team of the responsibilities outlined within the UAPPOL Hazard Identification, Assessment and Control Procedure, Appendix B - Violence Prevention .
  • encourage a help-seeking attitude among your staff.
  • model vulnerability and self-care.
  • create opportunities in meetings to increase awareness of concerns (domestic violence, Signal for Help , sexual violence, mental health etc.) and the role the workplace plays.
  • encourage staff to access online training to increase their awareness and understanding of domestic violence.
  • familiarize yourself with the resources listed below.
  • Help connect individuals to supportive resources and assist in the creation of a safety plan for violence that does not impact the workplace.

While all faculty and staff have a responsibility to act once they are made aware of workplace violence. As a leader, it is imperative that, should you become aware of an instance of workplace violence, you follow the necessary disclosure practices to ensure the appropriate investigation can occur in a timely manner.

What to do if you learn of an incident

If the person who cause harm is a faculty or staff member at the university, the workplace needs to be positioned to provide support. 

Please review the information contained within the UAPPOL Hazard Identification, Assessment and Control Procedure, Appendix B - Violence Prevention .

Further, the policy indicates that workers who witness or experience workplace violence are encouraged to report the incident promptly by completing the U of A’s online incident report.

Delayed reporting could endanger the faculty or staff member, compromise collection of evidence and produce other challenges during the investigation.

Employees may also contact: 

Employees may report anonymously; however, this may limit the ability to address the complaint and take appropriate next steps.

U of A Resources

  • Workplace Advice Line: Critical conversations can be difficult. Finding the words to convey care and concern given the sensitivity of the topic can be challenging. The university’s Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) can connect you with experts who can help you position and prepare for difficult conversations. 
  • Employee and Family Assistance Program: Confidential counseling services are available to all faculty and staff members as well as eligible dependents. Individuals can call 24/7 to access support. 
  • Safe Disclosure and Human Rights - The Office of Safe Disclosure and Human Rights provides confidential disclosure services as well as advising and consulting on any issue relating to Human Rights, Discrimination, Harassment and Accommodation issues.
  • Helping Individuals at Risk - Helping Individuals at Risk (HIAR) is a confidential, centralized resource for members of the campus community to report worrisome behaviours or concerns about individuals at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • University of Alberta Protective Services - University of Alberta Protective Services (UAPS) provides a positive university environment for students, staff, faculty and visitors through the prevention, intervention, and response to risks and emerging issues related to safety and security.

Additional Resources + Information