Insider: Workforce

Family Violence Training Is Needed in the Workplace

By Karen Days
From the October 2013 issue of Columbus CEO
  • Karen Days

Through absenteeism alone, family violence costs employers $3 billion to $5 billion annually and approximately 175,000 hours of lost productivity.

Seventy-five percent of family violence victims are harassed by their perpetrator at their place of employment—a testament to the fact that family violence does not stay at home when a victim goes to work. In fact, interfering in a victim’s ability to perform in the workplace is just one way abusers attempt to exert their power and control.

Research has shown that the workplace is one of the places where victims often seek help. This highlights the need for businesses to become more informed about the seriousness of family violence—not only to help prevent and address related issues, but also to ensure the safety and well-being of employed victims as well as their co-workers.

Many business leaders do not know how to start to address issues of family violence experienced by their employees. The Center for Family Safety and Healing (TCFSH) offers education and training programs to businesses at no cost. Because organizations come in all shapes and sizes, TCFSH customizes education and training materials to fit the needs of each company.

To date, TCFSH has served more than 180,000 employees and has guided approximately 120 businesses in developing an Employee Action Plan designed to train human resources, security and management staff to respond appropriately to situations of family violence in the workplace.

Abusive Behaviors

Family violence in the workplace is multidimensional, as it encompasses abusive behaviors that occur both in and outside of the worksite.

At work, it includes abusive behaviors that interfere with an employee’s ability to safely and securely perform his or her job duties. These abusive behaviors range from harassing or repeated phone calls, emails or faxes to unarmed and armed visits to the victim’s workplace. Oftentimes, abusers use their own company resources to perpetrate this violence.

Alternatively, other types of abuse that happen outside the worksite can affect the employee’s ability to perform his or her job. Symptoms of abuse experienced at home such as physical injuries and sleep deprivation, as well as symptoms of abuse in the workplace, can directly result in absenteeism, decreased productivity and increased utilization of medical services. Through absenteeism alone, family violence costs employers $3 billion to $5 billion annually and approximately 175,000 hours of lost productivity.

How to Help

Here are some ways employers can address family violence in the workplace:

Create a supportive environment. When leaders in a business setting talk openly about family violence, they have taken an important first step in changing attitudes and behaviors. Providing awareness-raising materials and creating a supportive environment will make a program more effective and will let victims of abuse know that help is available. It is imperative to remember that if employees speak languages other than English, materials should be made available in the appropriate languages.

Understand how to supervise an employee who is a victim of abuse. While an employee is experiencing violence in the home, it is important that the work environment is stable, with clear and consistent performance expectations. A temporary change in job responsibilities, schedule or even location, if this is feasible for the business, could be an appropriate accommodation for some victims. Additionally, an employee should make the supervisor aware, in advance, if he or she cannot meet a deadline or handle a specific job function (such as answering the telephone if the abuser may call).

Understand how to supervise an employee who is a perpetrator of abuse. Perpetrators come from all classes, backgrounds, races, religions and lifestyles. They may be unemployed or highly paid professionals. When talking to an employee who has been identified as a perpetrator of family violence, certain steps should be taken. Employers should not be confrontational and should be aware of safety issues when speaking with perpetrators. However, employers should never agree with any statements made by the perpetrator that might suggest that the employee’s significant other might be at fault. Remember that there is no excuse for family violence.

The workplace is one of the places where a victim can turn for help. By addressing the issue of family violence in the workplace, employers have the ability to provide a safe work environment, improve the company’s bottom line and possibly save lives.

Karen Days is president of The Center for Family Safety and Healing. She can be reached at (614) 722-5960 or karen.days@familysafetyandhealing.org. Karen Days is president of The Center for Family Safety and Healing. She can be reached at (614) 722-5960 or .