October 27, 2017 6:53 pm

Domestic violence costing Sask. employers: study

Crystal Giesbrecht of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services goes over their intimate partner violence study results.

David Baxter/Global News
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The Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS) is calling on more action to provide more services and education in the workplace for people experiencing intimate partner violence.

PATHS released a report titled Intimate Partner Violence and the Workplace: A Saskatchewan Study Friday morning.

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“It doesn’t just impact the individual that’s experiencing the violence, but it impacts their coworkers and those who are actually perpetrating violence as well,” PATHS executive director Jo-Anne Dusel said.

“The impact is not only the human, emotional kind of cost that we can imagine, but there’s also danger to coworkers, and economic costs to employers.”

This economic cost is significant. A 2012 Australian study cited in the PATHS report estimated that the total economic cost of spousal violence in Canada in 2009 was $7.4 billion. The report further estimates that $77.9 million comes directly from employers.

Part of what PATHS is advocating for is the introduction of paid and/or unpaid days off work for people fleeing a violent situation.

“We know that the benefits far outweigh the costs of domestic violence leaves,” PATHS research and communications director Crystal Giesbrecht said.

“So when we can keep people in their workplaces productivity goes up, people’s safety goes up, there’s less costs associated with retraining, with rehiring. So the costs of the training really are minimal.”

READ MORE: Sask. Justice Ministry releases interim Domestic Violence Death Review report

Giesbrecht said past clients have had to quit jobs in order to get out of a relationship. Others need days off to deal with police matters, court, taking kids to counselling, changing schools and a variety of other issues.

Saskatchewan consistently has the highest domestic violence rate among the provinces.

PATHS conducted an online survey as part of the study, which was filled out by more than 400 individuals. Additionally 27 focus groups and interviews were conducted with workers from across the province.

Fifty per cent of the respondents reported experiencing abuse; of those 83 per cent said the abuse followed them to work. This can manifest in itself in being unable to concentrate, calling in sick due to being too upset to work and being afraid to go to or leave work.

Dusel said that the workplace can be an amazing place to address intimate partner violence because it can be safe place for those living with abuse.

“It’s a place where women, or a man if he’s experiencing violence, will be everyday where the partner’s not going to be suspicious that they’re going there. They know they’re going there,” Dusel explained.

READ MORE: Domestic violence support workers want to see further prevention through education

Dusel said co-workers have a unique opportunity to spot red flags because they see a person nearly every day. She said education is key to developing an understanding of what the red flags are. PATHS holds training seminars with various workplaces.

“There’s a lot of people that aren’t getting the information from our domestic violence shelters and our counselling services,” Giesbrecht said. “But if we can have it available in work places there’s more of a chance they’re going to get it.”

Police Response

The Regina Police Service (RPS) has seen a steady increase in domestic conflict calls over the past five years, responding to about 1,000 more calls in 2017 than 2012. Superintendent Corey Zaharuck said they usually receive 17 calls per day.

“Anytime you get more demand, you have to look in the mirror and you have to start making some changes,” he said.

Zarharuck said the RPS are taking a more victim centered approach to domestic violence, this includes taking victim statements in a private room as opposed to the lobby area of their headquarters.

On November 8, the RPS will be launching a new website focusing on intimate partner violence. Zaharuck said that it will include police information on the topic, in addition to community resources like where to report and how to get help.
RPS officers are also receiving additional training in how to deal with victims experiencing trauma and how better to assist victims.

Often police can only intervene after an incident takes place in a domestic violence situation. This is why Zaharuck said education and raising awareness is the best tool in combatting the issue.

“We want people to better recognize the impact it really has in our community, and that’s really important to making changes,” he said.

The provincial government is expected to introduce additional legislation to assist domestic violence victims this fall.

During the spring sitting of the Legislative Assembly, Opposition Leader Nicole Sarauer introduced a private members bill requesting the ability for people fleeing domestic violence to be able to break a lease with 28 days’ notice, paid and unpaid days off for those individuals and Occupational Health and Safety provisions.

That bill was not passed into law, but then Justice Minister Gordon Wyant did introduce the lease legislation as a separate bill. It was passed with unanimous support.

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