Ensuring the safety of employees is of paramount importance. A comprehensive, employer-supported domestic violence prevention program can reduce the productivity and safety costs related to domestic violence and improve employee productivity, safety and quality of life.
What can you do?
With a strong EAP in place, you already have provided a valuable resource for employees. The EAP is available to conduct a detailed assessment, facilitate linkages with available resources, and provide counseling and support.
A strong outreach initiative also can make a difference. To begin, you will need to recruit some key constituencies within the organization.
Enlisting senior leadership support
The success of the domestic violence prevention program requires strong support from senior leadership, as well as corporate communications or human resources, to enable broad communication efforts. With senior leadership support the initiative takes on a more prominent role within the organization and creates cooperation from all levels. We encourage you to take an aggressive approach in implementing this domestic violence prevention initiative.
To support your efforts, ValueOptions has crafted communication tools, including:
Reinforcing the role of supervisors
Management and supervisory staff are in a unique position to observe employees’ day-to-day performance, appearance, and attendance and therefore, are in the best position to recognize behavior that signals the presence of a possible personal problem. Even though individuals involved in domestic violence work very hard to hide their secret, they frequently show signs of being abused that often go unnoticed or are dismissed by others.
Although these concerns may not immediately cause job performance problems such as absenteeism or reduced productivity, the supervisor can informally remind the employee of the resources and availability of the EAP.
Early intervention, whether based on job performance issues or informal reminders, can help employees access services that will help them become safe or regain control of behavior that has become out of control.
Establishing a workgroup
A cornerstone to the success of the domestic violence prevention initiative is the formation of an interdisciplinary workgroup at the outset. The function of this group is not only to create a domestic violence prevention program for your organization, but also to meet regularly to continuously evaluate the program, identify trends, and enhance and develop the program.
Taking action toward equality
The “Equality Wheel” illustrates the concepts of equality in relationships. The center of the wheel —“Equality”—represents the goal of healthy relationships. Each spoke represents the nonviolent interactions associated with equality in a relationship. The rim represents the cycle of respect, equality and nonviolence that fosters healthy relationships.
The Equality Wheel was developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Duluth, MN.
Consider the following actions to begin preventing family violence through efforts in the workplace. The recommendations and resources that follow fall into four categories:
- work culture and environment
- community resources
- policy and procedures
Work culture and environment
1. Review the overall work environment. At this time, does your work environment exacerbate or help to prevent the potential for domestic violence?
- Create a violence-free company culture. Provide training for supervisors, including general awareness of domestic violence, as well as how to ask employees about their situation and how to respond appropriately.
- Assess overall morale of employees.
- Assess whether communication styles are open.
- Assess management styles.
- Assess employee safety/security issues.
2. Have corporate management speak out on the issue of domestic violence and all forms of violence and provide a supportive environment for victims of violence.
3. Take a clear and powerful stand for a violence-free workplace and provide resources and clear expectations for employees. Remember, domestic violence prevention is not a one-time activity but an ongoing series of activities that become ingrained within the culture of the organization.
- Use corporate communication vehicles (e.g. intranet, newsletters, etc.) to educate employees on how abuse in the home affects the workplace. Possible topics include domestic violence prevention, positive parenting/child abuse prevention, conflict resolution, and elder abuse prevention.
- Consistent, sustained messages are the key. Awareness can help lead to cultural change! Place posters and brochures in employees' locker rooms, supervisors' offices, lunch rooms, and women's and men's restrooms, including phone numbers for employees to call for help if they're a victim or a friend of one, or if they are afraid they might hurt someone they care about. Provide buttons, bumper stickers, T-shirts and mugs with clear violence prevention messages.
4. Create a safe and respectful environment for the victim/employees to come forward and share information.
- Do you have a confidential environment for victim/employees to come forward and share information? Are supervisors and managers trained to understand and address employee domestic violence issues?
- Do you have a Workplace Violence Policy? Does it include content regarding domestic violence? Is it reviewed and updated routinely?
1. Provide employee and management training programs
- Provide awareness training for employees and managers about family violence to increase awareness and understanding.
- Teach employees and managers to identify early warning signs of family violence and determine subsequent steps that may be appropriate.
- Provide resources in the workplace for victims or potential victims, such as pamphlets and cards with local domestic violence program telephone numbers and community resources for potential perpetrators.
- Teach employees and managers about resources in the workplace and/or local community services for victims and perpetrators of domestic violence.
- Teach managers and supervisors how to respond to employees who may be experiencing violence at home.
- Provide opportunities for employees to learn clear, respectful communication and conflict resolution skills.
2. Provide preventive education .
- Employers can help address other forms of family violence, in particular child abuse, by providing employees with information on healthy ways to parent, giving them tools and support to develop peaceful relationships with their children, and helping them to understand normal child behavior and developmental stages and nonviolent methods of discipline.
- Provide information to male and female employees regarding community resources designed to build peaceful relationships.
Domestic violence presents unique and complex challenges to your workplace. In order to anticipate and prevent potentially serious situations from becoming harmful to all employees, you will need tools and resources. It is not solely your responsibility to resolve and intervene in cases of domestic violence. Throughout communities, schools, faith-based groups, neighborhood organizations, government agencies and other institutions are working together toward the prevention of domestic violence and to support people who are experiencing it. Your responsibility is to ensure appropriate workplace responses and resources. In addition to the internal policies and services listed in previous sections, you also can link your employees to existing community resources by doing the following:
- working with local law enforcement
- establishing a relationship with domestic violence service agencies in the community
- making available a list of community resources for:
- advocacy services
- legal services
- family and children’s services
- parenting education
- child abuse prevention
- counseling services
- social services/child protection agencies
- EAP (information, support and referrals)
While these suggestions are helpful, the most important thing to remember is that employees need to know they can use these services without jeopardizing their job. Fostering a work environment that exhibits trust and open communication is key to ensuring employees will be able to approach their supervisor and ask for assistance.
Policy and Procedures
At a minimum every organization ought to have a safety policy that addresses workplace violence. Establishing policies and procedures is one of the most crucial steps in creating awareness within the organization that workplace violence is a serious problem that will not be ignored. The safety policy may include policy statements and procedures regarding domestic violence, or the organization may elect to have an independent domestic violence policy. The following outline is designed to help you identify key policy considerations.
- Develop a company policy statement regarding domestic violence that includes:
- Security measures
- Use of leave
- Job security
- Safe work environment
- Key components of an effective Domestic Violence in the Workplace Policy include:
- Providing a benefits package that is sensitive to the needs of employees and families
- Offering leave policies that enable employees experiencing domestic violence to go to court or access needed services. These policies ought to consider allowing employees to waive advance notice requirements in emergency situations.
- Encouraging employees to use an employee assistance program to begin to address domestic violence issues in the workplace
- Reinforcing the confidentiality of employee assistance services
- Improve security measures
- Train security personnel on needs of domestic abuse victims.
- Address stalking of employees.
- Assess the process for how anyone (e.g. spouse, partner, friend or potential domestic violence perpetrators) may be able to obtain an employee's location or phone number.
- Provide security escorts as needed.
- Change an employee's phone number and office location if an ex-partner or spouse is harassing the employee
A sample policy has been provided here for your reference or for adaptation to your worksite: Sample Domestic Violence Prevention Policy (word)
For additional information on state employment laws related to domestic violence, visit Legal Momentum: www.legalmomentum.org.
For program ideas and to find out how other industries have addressed domestic violence at their workplaces, review Program Ideas and Other Workplace Examples (word)
What to do when you are aware of domestic violence
In instances where you learn that an employee is experiencing domestic violence in her life, including being stalked, please consider the following steps:
Please note that these measures can enhance the safety of the employee/victim as well as other employees and customers who could potentially be affected by incidents of family violence spilling over into your workplace.
- Relocate the workstation of threatened employees.
- Alter employee work schedules.
- Encourage law enforcement to enforce restraining orders.
- If threats are acute, provide employee with leave(s) of absence.
- Limit information about employees that is disclosed by phone, including information that would help locate possible victims or which indicates what time she will return should not be provided.
- Provide the victim with the time off he may need to go to court, seek shelter or connect with other resources.
- Remind the employee of any safety measures that are available to and from her car.
- Obtain a picture of the perpetrator or, at a minimum, a description. Also obtain identifying personal information about the person (i.e., date of birth, Social Security number, etc.) and a copy of any restraining order. This information is crucial if a situation escalates and a sudden call to the police is necessary. A picture will help alert security guards or receptionists if the abuser tries to gain access to the worksite.
- Discuss the feasibility of other actions such as providing a temporary cellular phone for emergency calls and on-site security guards.