October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey, 1 in every four women, and one in 10 men, will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. Also, according to a CDC survey,  20 Americans experience intimate partner physical violence every minute. That totals around 10 million victims per year.​ The Department of Labor (DOL) reports that victims of domestic violence lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the U.S., resulting in a $1.8 billion loss in productivity for employers.

The CDC also reported 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women; and the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, a national nonprofit organization based in Bloomington, Ill, found that 21 percent of full-time employed adults said they were victims of domestic violence and 74 percent of that group said they’ve been harassed at work.

Yet, studies show that 65% of employers don’t have a domestic violence policy. 

Employers should be aware that Domestic Violence doesn’t just stay at home, it almost always spills over into the workplace. In order to protect your organization, there are some simple measures that every employer can take.

Here are 7 ways:

  • Have a clear policy regarding domestic violence.
  • Train supervisors to recognize and respond to signs of domestic violence.
  • Employers should educate workers on the warning signs of domestic violence, which could includes:
    • Change in job performance: poor concentration, errors, slowness, inconsistent work quality.
    • An unusual number of phone calls/text messages, strong reactions to those calls/text messages, and/or a reluctance to converse or respond to phone/text messages.
    • Disruptive personal visits to workplace by present or former partner or spouse.
    • Absenteeism or lateness for work.
    • Reluctance to leave work.
    • Obvious injuries such as bruises, black eyes, broken bones, hearing loss — these are often attributed to “falls,” “being clumsy,” or “accidents.”
    • Clothing that is inappropriate for the season, such as long sleeves and turtlenecks — also wearing sunglasses and unusually heavy makeup.
    • Minimization or denial of harassment or injuries.
    • Isolation; unusually quiet and keeping away from others.
    • Emotional distress or flatness, tearfulness, depression, or suicidal thoughts.
    • Signs of anxiety and fear.
  • Provide access to EAP services
  • If possible, allow for flexible scheduling.
  • Think safety first!

Now, If an employee reveals that he or she is in an abusive relationship, HR should:

  • Communicate your concerns for the employee’s safety. Talk to the victim privately. It’s important to ask the victim what changes could be made to make him or her feel safer.
  • Tell the employee that you believe him or her. “Listening, listening, listening, is really important.
  • Refer the employee to an EAP. It may be best to use a local domestic violence support agency with trained staff.
  • Be clear that your role is to try to help and not to judge; refrain from belittling or criticizing the reasons a victim stays or returns to the abuser.
  • Consult with trained security staff if there is a concern about workplace safety.

It is crucial that employers not ignore evidence of domestic abuse; and to show compassion and refrain from judgment. Please note, most people think they could never be in a domestic violence situation, yet statistics show it can happen to anyone.

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