1/4 of Albertans affected by domestic violence in the workplace: survey

Alberta Council of Women's Shelters executive director Jan Reimer speaks about the violence in the Workplace survey results in Edmonton Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. Global News

A quarter of Albertans have been affected by domestic violence in the workplace, according to a recent survey by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters.

The ACWS released the results of its Violence in the Workplace survey Thursday. The survey was conducted by Leger Marketing in June and July, and heard from 1,208 Albertans age 18 and older who had been employed in the previous two years in Edmonton, Calgary and other areas of the province.

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The ACWS said domestic violence is the second-most prominent form of abuse in the workplace. Bullying was the number one issue, with 37 per cent of people reporting encounters with bullying. Sexual harassment followed, with 23 per cent of those surveyed saying they experienced it in the workplace.

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“For too long, society has viewed domestic violence as a private matter,” ACWS executive director Jan Reimer said.

“But this survey shows that violence and abuse damages both workplaces and families. We need a concerted conversation about how to reduce the impact of domestic abuse on such a significant section of the population.”

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A vast majority — 93 per cent — of respondents agreed domestic violence has a negative impact on workplace productivity. Ninety-one per cent said domestic violence had the potential for workplace absenteeism, 90 per cent said it would affect morale and 86 per cent said it would negatively affect employee safety.

“Domestic abuse can impact employees in many ways. We have heard about stalkers using a company vehicle to repeatedly turn up outside a woman’s workplace. In other cases, abusers have harrassed their ex-partners through phone calls and text messages,” Reimer said.

“Abusers may also bring their bullying mentality from the home into the workplace and impose it on other employees.”

More than half of those who took part in the survey said their workplace has a policy to deal with workplace violence, bullying and sexual violence. However, the ACWS said the majority of Albertans surveyed said they did not know if their workplace had a policy to address and prevent family and domestic violence.

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The ACWS said one of the key takeaways from the survey is that there is room for improvement to increase awareness of the impacts an abusive situation can have on an employee’s ability to work effectively.

“People know when they encounter workplace violence and abuse,” Reimer said. “But they are not sufficiently supported by clear policies and procedures developed by their employers.

“Alongside the human cost to workplace violence there is also a financial cost, now running at around $100,000 per 100 employees.”

This is the second Violence in the Workplace survey conducted by the ACWS. The last survey was done in 2009.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic or family violence, call the 24-hour support line at 310-1818.

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