In cases of emergency:

If you are concerned for your own or a co-worker’s immediate safety, call 911.

If you, or a co-worker/friend needs help, consult:

Shelters offer counselling and referral as well as a safe place to stay. They can assist our colleagues, employees, members and friends in developing a safety plan for themselves and their children. Unions and employers can call on shelter workers for advice and training.

Domestic Violence at Work and Responsibilities for Workplace Parties:

Domestic violence (DV) often comes into the workplace through the abuse of a colleague or employee by a current or former partner or other family member. This can take many forms, including emails, text messages, phone calls, visits, social media posts and disrupting childcare and/or transportation. By extension, many factors can impact the person’s ability to work, including physical injury; sleep deprivation; being forced out of the home; stress; or their abuser hiding car keys, a security pass or bus pass or refusing to care for children or threatening to harm children or co-workers, etc. Anyone can experience DV but women, transgender people, non-binary people and persons with disabilities are particularly vulnerable, and barriers exist also in receiving support or care.

Work can be a safe haven for someone who is experiencing violence at home. To deal with the consequences of domestic violence, employees may have to miss work to obtain an order of protection, engage in safety planning, secure legal assistance, find childcare or look for an alternative living arrangement.

Employers have many responsibilities as it pertains to domestic violence. Overall, employers have a responsibility and obligation under the Canada Labour Code, Part II, to protect and prevent against harassment and violence in the workplace. This covers all forms of violence, including domestic violence.

In addition, the Work Place Harassment and Violence Prevention Regulations (Regulations), most notably section 8, states:

An employer and the applicable partner must jointly identify the risk factors, internal and external to the workplace, that contribute to harassment and violence in the workplace, taking into account

  1. the culture, conditions, activities and organizational structure of the workplace;
  2. circumstances external to the workplace, such as family violence, that could give rise to harassment and violence in the workplace;

In addition, the Regulations contain specific other requirements including:

The Interpretations, Policies and Guidelines (IPG) notes that external risk factors may include family or domestic violence such as repeatedly phoning or emailing the employee to interfere with them while at work, showing up at the employee’s workplace and pestering co-workers with questions about the employee, etc.

As noted by the IPG, for all incidents of family or domestic violence that employers are made aware of, the employer should conduct a Risk Screening, and develop a Workplace Safety Plan, if needed. This is to prevent increased risk to the victim and others in the workplace. The employer should also provide the victim with referrals for internal and external support resources. If the incident occurred in the workplace (and therefore meets the definition of an occurrence), the employer must also follow the process laid out in the Regulations at sections 19 to 34.

Visit the Risk Screening tool, sample Workplace Safety Plan, and external resources developed by the Labour Program, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) for more information.

Suggested DV Language for Department and Agency Violence and Harassment Roles and Responsibilities - Employer Responsibilities and Manager Responsibilities

Suggested DV Language for Department and Agency Violence and Harassment Prevention Policies

Training and Supports

The employer should provide to all employees, as part of the required workplace harassment and violence prevention training, awareness training on the factors that could lead to an occurrence of workplace harassment and violence from an external source such as domestic or family violence and the impact on the workplace.

The employer should identify a resource person or team, (ideally in the office of the Designated Recipient, Ombudsman or Human Resources) who will be trained in domestic violence, privacy issues and DV assessments. It is strongly recommended that the Designated Recipient be trained in mental health first aid as well as trauma-informed support. Bargaining agents may also want to consider establishing a trained union peer support representative(s).

In instances where employees experience domestic or family violence at work and the employee does not feel comfortable or refuses to submit a notice of occurrence, a workplace assessment should still be conducted to identify the risks to the workplace and determine preventive/mitigating measures to be implemented. This should be completed by the delegated manager in conjunction with the workplace committee and may involve security and other stakeholders.

Individual Support Measures That can be Used to Support Employees Experiencing Domestic or Family Violence

It is recommended that these be included in the policy, or an addendum to the policy, in Intranet website content, guides/checklists, awareness campaigns and staff training.

The employer shall consider and should approve any reasonable request from an employee experiencing domestic violence, including any of the following supports:

Checklist for Domestic Violence Procedures and Response Process

Individual Safety Plan

The Individual Safety Plan should be developed between the manager and the employee subjected to domestic and family violence. Other team member(s) who may be impacted may be involved given the circumstances and the type of measures to implement.

Note that many departments have a Safety Plan template that they may wish to refer to.

Sample Individualized Safety Plan

Checklist for an Individual Safety Plan

When Domestic Violence is a Workplace Occurrence

“Occurrence” is defined in the Regulations as: “…an occurrence of harassment and violence in the workplace”.

However, “workplace” is defined in the Code as, “…any place where an employee is engaged in work for the employee’s employer.” Therefore, and as noted in the IPG, an employee’s “workplace” is not limited to only the building and facilities that have been provided to them by their employer. Instead, an employee’s workplace follows them wherever they are performing work for their employer. An employee’s workplace can include public spaces, third-party premises, and even the employee’s residence if the employer has allowed them to work from home.

Given this interpretation of “workplace,” if an employee is exposed to harassment and violence at any location while performing work for their employer, this would constitute an “occurrence” of harassment and violence under the Regulations. This includes incidents that arise out of or are linked with employment, such as:

As a result, an “occurrence” of workplace harassment and violence can include an incident of domestic or family violence that takes place in either:

However, if the employer is made aware of an incident of domestic or family violence that took place outside of the traditional physical workplace, the employer is nonetheless encouraged to address the incident and provide support to the affected employee in order to prevent it from becoming an “occurrence” in the future. The employer may still be involved if the incident occurs:

Dos and Don’ts

We should all watch out for signs that colleagues are being subjected to domestic or family violence.