It can be a tough task to deal with domestic violence in the workplace. We’ll be the first to admit it is not an easy or fun topic to discuss. But, as statistics show, it is a necessity.
According to studies, domestic violence victims lose 8 million days of paid work annually. The cost of those days exceeds $8.3 billion a year, according to the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.
Further complicating matters for survivors, between 21 and 60 percent of them lose their jobs due to the violence they experience. And, even more disheartening is the fact that more than 140 women were murdered at work by their abuser in one five-year period.
So, what does this mean for employers? How can you safely manage the impact in your workplace?
First, and foremost, businesses can partner with domestic violence agencies to provide workplace seminars, trainings or health fairs. Training in the workplace can improve the understanding of domestic violence at work. While knowledge and education are good to have, multiple trainings or exposures to domestic violence information in the workplace will change behaviors.
Those behavioral changes are more aptly to happen if a domestic violence policy is also in place. Domestic violence policies can protect survivors if they include time-off for multiple court dates. Often, judges will extend court dates several times if the affected individuals do not show up in court. This requires the survivor-employee to take off work more days than permitted to move forward with potential restraining orders, divorce or custody cases.
These policies can be promoted in writing or poster form next to other required federal or state workplace posters.
But, taking the policy one-step further is when an employer knows of the employee’s abuse. Having a support network at the office can be an asset to any survivor. Other than encouraging help with proper resources, employers can also offer employee assistance programs, sometimes called EAPs.
If the survivor-employee has confided her abuse with another employee she is comfortable with, they may establish a code word to signal the abuse. If the employee calls-in sick and says, “My throat is tickling again,” or “Johnny has a teacher meeting today,” the responding employee can document the abuse signal.
Although such signals are used on occasion, employees can also have distress signals for immediate emergencies. If the survivor-employee is concerned for her immediate safety, she can call work and provide a distress signal established with a colleague, alerting the colleague to contact law enforcement.
These three tips can positively change the way survivor-employees work. Not only will the business experience greater productivity, but they will have a more loyal employee.
For other suggestions on domestic violence policies or hosting training sessions, employers are encouraged to contact Hope House at 816-461-4188 or visit our website hopehouse.net