Employers and unions asked to help combat domestic violence

Shelters for victims of domestic violence found abuse often follows victims to work through technology. SOURCE Women's Shelters Coalition of Quebec

MONTREAL -- As part of the 12-day campaign against violence against women, the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale is seeking support from employers and unions this year.

The organization, which represents some 40 shelters, unveiled an awareness campaign Saturday warning that "domestic violence does not stop at the doorstep" because more than half of the victims will continue to be harassed at their place of work. Their spouse or former abusive spouse can come to the workplace or flood them with calls, text messages and e-mails for example.

Employers and unions should not hesitate to address these issues head-on, despite their personal nature, as it is their responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy work environment, argues the organization.

Its president, Chantal Arseneault, suggested measures be put in place to protect employees from such intrusions into the workplace, such as giving them the opportunity to change their e-mail address and their extension number.

"Employers can get an executive or a human resource person to listen, to be attentive, to help victims refer them to resources," said Arsenault, coordinator of the Esther House in Laval.

Protocols can also be established in the event that an abusive partner or ex-partner comes to the workplace. As for other employees, they can also be trained to recognize the signs of distress among their colleagues and to show their support.

Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale offers employers and unions the support of its workers to provide training on the issue and publicize services in this area, among other services.

As for the unions, their influence is mainly in terms of the negotiation of collective agreements. They may seek to include clauses that provide for paid leave to consult a lawyer or health professional and prepare for departure to a shelter, for example.

France Paradis, a vice-president of the Quebec Federation of Labor, also advocates for protections against possible disciplinary action. Since spousal violence is a major source of anxiety, the professional performance of victims often suffers, she explained.

"Productivity drops. Absences increase. The delays increase," she said.

Already anticipating the objections of employers, Paradis insists they do not have to worry about women workers abusing their flexibility.

"I do not know anyone who will boast of having been the victim of domestic violence for 'fun,'" she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2019.