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The following resources and tools are provided to assist City supervisors in addressing domestic/intimate partner violence in City workplaces. At any time, when you feel that these resources are not sufficient to address your needs or if you are unsure how to proceed (e.g. whether or not to have police involvement, what should be included in the safety plan), contact Corporate Security or EAP for consultation. If you feel your workplace is at imminent risk, call the police.

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In addition to the abused person, domestic/intimate partner violence affects co-workers and the work environment. The effects can range from subtle to dramatic. As a supervisor or manager, it is important to be aware of potential problems.

Domestic violence is absolutely a workplace issue. When [a partner leaves the] abuser, where is the one place the abuser knows the [partner] will be every day? Work.

Cambridge Domestic Violence Advocate

Impact on abused person

  • Negative physical and emotional health effects
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Difficulty meeting basic needs of self and family
  • Increased absenteeism, tardiness
  • Decreased concentration
  • Reduced productivity
  • Workplace interruptions

Impact on co-workers

  • Concern for the employee experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence
  • Fear of violence entering the workplace
  • Concern for personal safety
  • Negative impact on workplace interpersonal relationships
  • Work interruptions and decreased productivity
  • Resentment towards the employee experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence (e.g. additional work falls on co-workers, perceived special treatment from supervisor/manager)
  • Trauma from witnessing violence
  • Negative impact on worker morale

Impact on organization

  • Compromised safety in the organization
  • Increased threat of violence
  • Increased health care costs
  • Increased employee turnover and recruitment costs
  • Work interruptions and decreased productivity


  1. Cambridge Public Health Department. How to Respond to Employees Facing Domestic Violence: A Workplace Handbook for Managers, Supervisors, and Co-Workers.
  2. Make It Our Business. Guidelines for communicating with employees at risk of workplace domestic violence. 2010.

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Domestic/intimate partner violence can occur in all cultures and communities. While it can be difficult to recognize, there are many signs that might indicate an employee is experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence. Being aware of potential signs of domestic/intimate partner violence can help you to take appropriate measures to prevent it from escalating in your workplace. You may notice that your employee is less productive than usual or see changes in social behaviour. Some visible signs of abuse might indicate an escalation of violence that could enter a workplace.

Potential Signs of Abuse – Work Productivity

Your employee is:

  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Often arriving late or working increased hours for no apparent reason (e.g. very early arrival at work and/or working late)
  • Missing work more frequently than usual
  • Needing regular time off for “appointments”
  • Being less productive
  • Making excuses for poor work performance
  • Receiving frequent phone calls and emails from a partner

Potential Signs of Abuse – Social Behaviour

Your employee is:

  • Behaving differently than usual (e.g. may become quiet, avoid interaction, eat alone, may not talk to others unless someone else speaks to him/her first)
  • Appearing withdrawn and isolated
  • Demonstrating uncharacteristic depression, anxiety, problems with concentration, appearing fearful or easily startled
  • Engaging in fewer social activities than usual
  • Making last minute cancellations
  • Using drugs and/or alcohol to cope
  • Apologizing for a partner’s behaviour
  • Having an unusual amount of control/demands over the work schedule exerted by the partner
  • Obsessing over the time
  • Exhibiting fear of partner/references to partner’s anger
  • Expressing fears about leaving children home alone with the abuser

Potential Signs of Abuse – Escalating Abuse

Your employee is:

  • Appearing flustered by incoming phone calls or emails from a partner
  • Receiving repeated calls/faxes/emails
  • Exhibiting reluctance to turn off mobile phone at work
  • Trying to cover up bruises and scratches (e.g. wearing long sleeves or turtleneck tops in summer)
  • Showing signs of strangulation
  • Receiving unannounced visits from a partner at work
  • Acting nervous when a partner shows up at the workplace
  • Being followed to/from work by a partner
  • Appearing depressed/attempting suicide
  • Being the target of vandalism or threats

Perpetrator may attempt to prevent the employee from getting to work or seeking work by:

  • Interfering with transportation (e.g. hiding car keys or transportation money)
  • Hiding or stealing the partner’s identification cards.
  • Threatening deportation in a situation where the partner was sponsored
  • Failing to show up to care for children
  • Physically restraining the partner

Perpetrator may interfere with the employee while at work by:

  • Repeatedly phoning or emailing the employee
  • Stalking and/or watching the employee
  • Showing up at the workplace and pestering co-workers with questions about the employee
  • Lying to co-workers about the employee’s whereabouts
  • Destroying the employee’s or workplace’s property
  • Threatening the employee and/or co-workers
  • Displaying jealous and controlling behaviour
  • Verbally abusing the employee and/or co-workers
  • Making disruptive personal visits to the workplace
  • Physically harming the employee and/or co-workers

Co-workers may:

  • Receive insensitive or insulting messages intended for the employee experiencing abuse
  • Be threatened, abused or physically harmed


  1. Worksafe BC. Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace: A Handbook for Employers. 2012.
  2. Refuge and Respect. Domestic violence resource manual for employers, 2nd Edition. 2010.

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Overcoming Our Hesitation to Help

Domestic/intimate partner violence thrives when abused partners are isolated and many cultures have promoted a “mind your own business” attitude. Many of us learned to be hesitant about becoming involved in situations of domestic/intimate partner violence. Here are other ways of looking at some common concerns:


Table 1. Points of Concern and Points to Consider.

Points of Concern Points to Consider
  • You feel it’s none of your business
  • It could be a matter of life or death – violence is everyone’s business
  • You don’t know what to say
  • Saying you care and are concerned is a good start
  • You might make things worse
  • Doing nothing is more likely to make things worse
  • You are afraid the perpetrator’s violence will turn on you and threaten the safety of the workplace
  • Inform the police if you receive threats
  • It’s not serious enough to involve the police
  • Police are trained to respond to situations like this and they also know how to bring in other resources from the community
  • You are worried about maintaining confidentiality in the workplace
  • Occupational health and safety legislation requires workplaces to both consider safety and respect privacy of employees
  • The law requires employers to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect the worker


Open discussions about domestic/intimate partner violence decrease the risk for everyone in the workplace. If your employees feel comfortable bringing forward information about potential threats or violent behaviour, then both employers and co-workers will be better prepared to recognize potential risks and prevent a workplace incident.

People experiencing abuse might choose not to disclose if they:

  • Fear losing their job
  • See it as a personal/private matter
  • Fear being humiliated by the perpetrator
  • Are too ashamed to speak about it
  • Feel co-workers, supervisors or union representatives are friends of the perpetrator
  • Fear being held responsible for the domestic/intimate partner violence
  • Fear that the perpetrator will be harmed
  • Fear that the perpetrator will seek revenge
  • Believe that the employer doesn’t care and has no time for domestic/intimate partner violence problems
  • Do not feel safe in the work environment/have concerns about confidentiality
  • Do not trust the employer
  • Are worried about cultural taboos (e.g. bringing shame or dishonour to the family)
  • Do not recognize or want to recognize the experiences as abusive
  • Believe that the abuse is their fault
  • Fear being judged and seen as weak
  • Are worried because the perpetrator also works for the organization

People experiencing abuse might choose to disclose if they:

  • Have a sympathetic supervisor, co-workers or union representatives who are willing to listen, and they feel safe in their work environment
  • Need someone to confide in and talk to
  • Want to explain their decreased work performance, increased absences or tardiness
  • Need time off from work for court appearances or medical appointments
  • Want to confirm supervisor, co-worker or union representative suspicions
  • Want to explain reasons for calling in sick, appearing upset at work or having physical injuries and bruises
  • Want to explain past/future phone calls or visits from the perpetrator
  • Want to warn the workplace that the perpetrator may show up there
  • Are afraid for their safety
  • Want support to call the police or other helpers
  • Know their rights and want justice

In a healthy workplace where difficult topics can be discussed, people are more likely to notice when a co-worker is in distress and a person experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence can more safely disclose their situation. Have open discussions with your employees to improve workplace safety.


Be aware that an employee may choose not to disclose information about domestic/intimate partner violence during a first discussion. If this is the case, inform the employee that if they would like to discuss any matters that might be affecting them in the future, either yourself or a nominated contact is available to provide support.


  1. Worksafe BC. Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace: A Handbook for Employers. 2012.
  2. Make It Our Business. Guidelines for communicating with employees at risk of workplace domestic violence. 2010.
  3. Refuge and Respect. Domestic violence resource manual for employers, 2nd Edition. 2010

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Above is a video from WorkSafeBC on talking to an employee who might be experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence. A video transcript (pdf) is available for download.

Talking about domestic/intimate partner violence can be difficult. Bringing up personal issues with an employee can be uncomfortable and you may feel frustrated if an employee doesn’t want to take action. When you handle these concerns genuinely, it is a starting point for increasing safety in the workplace and providing support. Remember that is it not your role to be a therapist or to ‘fix’ the situation. Reaching out, showing concern and offering support can make a big difference.

These are some tips for speaking to an abused person, as well as some reminders to help you deal with frustration.

Talking to the employee

Since it can be difficult to identify someone experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence, approach conversations with caution. Remember to bring up domestic/intimate partner violence only in a safe and private environment.

You can start a conversation with statements such as:

  • “I’m concerned about you. You’re such a good employee, but you’ve seemed distracted and upset recently.”
  • “Sometimes when a person’s performance changes at work, it could mean they are experiencing conflict at home. Could this be happening to you?”
  • “I noticed the bruises you had last week and you’ve been off work more often than usual. I am concerned about you. Is someone hurting you?”
  • “You looked upset and worried after that phone call today. Are you okay? Can I help?”

You could ask:

  • “What can we change here to help you feel and be safer at work?”
  • “Has your partner ever threatened to come to work?”
  • “May I give you information about resources in the community that can support you?”

You are encouraged to be mindful of the type of language that you use when talking to employees and to avoid labelling them, using terms the employees don’t identify with (e.g. victim).

When talking to your employee, do NOT say things like:

  • “This is so hard to believe!”
  • “Things may get better with time.”
  • “I can’t believe you put up with this!”
  • “Your partner just doesn’t seem like that kind of person.”
  • “If you’re still with them, it must not be that bad.”
  • “You can’t stay in this situation.”
  • “You have to leave!”

These statements might make employees experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence feel like you don’t believe them or that you are blaming them for allowing their situation to continue. If someone thinks you don’t believe them or their situation isn’t serious, it could cause them to withdraw and not confide in you again. Furthermore, experts advise that those who experience domestic/intimate partner violence should not be encouraged to leave a relationship before they feel ready and have assessed that it is safe.

What to say if an employee discloses abuse

If the employee discloses abuse, show that you are supportive, remain non-judgemental when you ask questions, be clear and be sensitive.

Believe your employee and be supportive. Acknowledge the courage it takes to talk about domestic/intimate partner violence and reassure the employee that they have done the right thing by coming forward. Make sure the employee knows that this will not reflect badly on his/her work:

  • “You did the right thing by talking to me. You are not on your own to deal with this. We’re here to help and support you. You don’t have to worry about your job.”
  • “Help is available. I am here if you need me and there are programs in the community with special expertise that can help.”

Listen carefully. The person knows more about their situation than anyone else. Respect the employee’s suggestions, needs and choices:

  • “You know your situation best and you are in charge of your life. We want to work with you to help keep everyone safe.”

Express understanding. Tell the employee that you know sometimes “personal issues” can spill over into the workplace or interfere with work performance:

  • “Sometimes things happen in our lives that we don’t expect or choose. We can’t always put a boundary between home and work, or the personal and the professional. What’s important is to handle this in a way that keeps you and everyone else in our workplace safe.”

Tell the employee it is not his/her fault:

  • “It’s not your fault. No one deserves to be hurt. Abuse is not normal and it’s not Okay.”

Validate the employee’s feelings. The employee may feel hurt, angry, afraid, ashamed or trapped. They may love the abuser and think that the abuser can change:

  • “This must be really difficult for you. It’s normal to have a lot of conflicting emotions.”

Focus on safety. Assess the situation and invite the employee to participate in creating a personal safety plan for her/his time at work. The employee should also be encouraged to:

  • Create a personal safety plan with trained community professionals for time spent outside of work
  • Share ideas with the employer on making changes to increase safety for everyone at work — including threat assessments, safety planning, and risk management
  • Contact the Employee Assistance Program and/or a local anti-violence program to get additional information and support

As well, ask open-ended questions about changes, if any, which could be made in the workplace to make the employee feel safer. For example, arranging a schedule that is less predictable might protect the employee from harassment by an abuser who knows their current patterns. This might mean offering a flexible schedule, different shifts, or other work arrangements. Identify opportunities for time away from work to make it easier for them to get help and to rebuild their life.

Consider the children (if any). If children are involved in domestic/intimate partner violence and there are concerns for their safety because of violence in the home, the law is clear that you must contact the Children’s Aid Society in your community immediately. Explain to the employee that this is your legal obligation.

Maintain confidentiality. Remember to keep the information confidential. If there is a threat to the workplace, tell your employee that you will only share the information on a need-to-know basis. If you do need to share information, a more empowering approach is to tell your employee that you will try to do it when they are present, or ideally allow them to share the information.

Other factors to remember:

  • No matter how terrible a situation sounds, those who experience domestic/intimate partner violence are more likely to downplay their situation than to exaggerate it
  • They tend to understate their fear
  • Avoid giving personal advice, as domestic/intimate partner violence involves the perpetrator taking control away from the abused person, so it is important not to engage in the same behaviour
  • Instead of giving advice, provide support, information and contact details for internal and external resources

What to say if an employee denies the abuse

If the employee chooses not to disclose abuse, but you still have reason to believe it is a concern, do not push the employee. Tell them that you are still going to be there anytime they want help. Consider that the employee may be afraid or not ready to take the next steps. Very often, even though it may not seem so to us, the abused person knows what timing and action is best for themselves.

Remind the employee of any services that the workplace offers, such the Employee Assistance Program, and/or direct the employee to external resources.

Dealing with frustration

Helping someone experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence can be difficult and frustrating. They may not explore the options you suggest, which could cause you to experience “compassion fatigue.” Remember that domestic/intimate partner violence involves the perpetrator controlling the person and taking away her/his power. It can therefore be difficult for someone suffering abuse to leave the relationship.

There are many reasons why those experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence sometimes stay with their abusive partners, including:

  • Financial dependence
  • Lack of suitable housing options
  • Religious or cultural pressures
  • Social stigma
  • Love for the partner and desire to support their partner to heal and change
  • Personal plans to escape a relationship are in progress
  • Current situation (e.g. dependants involved) renders it safer to stay
  • Physical disability
  • Dependency on partner for care
  • Threats of deportation, lethal violence or of committing suicide if the relationship ends

Domestic/intimate partner violence can be a gradual process and it may take years for the abused person to realize it will never stop. If you become frustrated while trying to help an employee who is experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence, remember that it can take time for someone who has experienced abuse to feel empowered. Your support is important and can make a real difference.


  1. Worksafe BC. Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace: A Handbook for Employers. 2012.
  2. Make It Our Business. Guidelines for communicating with employees at risk of workplace domestic violence. 2010.

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There may be situations in which both the abused partner and the perpetrator of domestic/intimate partner violence are your employees. If you feel unsafe starting a conversation with someone perpetrating violence, contact a professional for help. Safety is your primary concern and you should not put yourself or anyone else in your organization in a situation that seems unsafe.

You may become aware that an employee is using work hours and/or equipment such as telephones and emails to harass a partner. If your employee makes threats or commits acts of violence in the workplace, it is important to take immediate action. First, take steps to ensure the safety of the workplace. Review the safety planning section of the site for suggestions on how to handle a situation when two employees are involved in a domestic violence situation with each other.

Be alert to the possibility of domestic violence if you hear the following:

  • “I have a drinking problem.”
  • “I need an anger management course.”
  • “I’m not handling stress at work.”
  • “My partner says I need help.”
  • “My partner and I are fighting a lot.”
  • “My partner and I need counselling.”
  • “My partner is not coping and is taking it out on me.”
  • “The kids are out of control and my partner’s not firm enough.”
  • “I’m depressed/anxious/stressed/not sleeping/not coping/not myself.”
  • “I feel suicidal (or have threatened or attempted suicide).”
  • “I’m worried about my rage at work, in the car, at football, etc.”

If a suspected perpetrator presents a problem such as drinking, stress or depression, but does not refer to any abusive behaviour, these are useful questions to ask:

  • “How is this drinking/stress at work/depression affecting how you are with your family?”
  • “Do you find yourself getting angry with your partner?”
  • “When you feel like that, how do you behave?”
  • “Do you find yourself shouting/smashing things?”
  • “Have these arguments ever become physical?”
  • “Have you ever pushed or hit your partner?”
  • “You must be worried about the effect this is having on you, your relationship with your partner and your children?”
  • “It sounds like you want to make some changes for your benefit and for your partner/children. What choices do you have? What can you do about it? What help would you like to assist you to make these changes?”

If there is further indication that domestic/intimate partner violence may be an issue, other useful questions to ask include:

  • “It sounds like your behaviour can be frightening; does your partner say they are frightened of you?”
  • “How are the children affected?”
  • “Have the police ever been called to the house because of your behaviour?”
  • “Are you aware of any patterns – is the abuse getting worse or more frequent?”
  • “Do you feel jealous and question your partner about where they go or who they see?”
  • “How do you think alcohol or drugs affect your behaviour?”
  • “What worries you most about your behaviour?”

If your employee confides or confirms that they are being violent at home, or you otherwise become aware that your employee is abusing a partner, you might try the following:

  • If there is immediate danger, call the police or worksite security
  • Reinforce your organization’s accountability measures for abusers in the workplace
  • Be direct about what you have seen but avoid making judgments
  • Point out that you are talking to the individual because you are concerned about both parties in the relationship (and any children they may have)
  • State that this behaviour needs to stop. Explain what actions your employee must take according to company policy and the consequences if such steps are not followed
  • Refer your employee to professional, community, or workplace resources, such as your Employee Assistance Program, but don’t force the employee to seek help and don’t argue about the abuse
  • Keep communication open and look for opportunities to help or connect them with community resources.

Consult with Legal and/or Employee and Labour Relations, as required.

You can open a conversation by saying things such as:

  • “I appreciate you coming forward with this. There are community resources and counsellors that can help you. Would you like me to connect you with them now? Is your partner hurt? Do we need to get them some help? “
  • “I’m concerned. It’s clear that you feel a lot of anger and tension over this. What can we do to make sure nobody gets hurt? “
  • “No matter how angry you are at your partner, there are ways to talk about that anger without being violent.”
  • “I know you believe they started it, but you are choosing to respond with violence. No one can make you be violent or abusive. It doesn’t have to be this way.”
  • “You can get help. You can learn to control the way you react. There are other people who have been where you are and can help.”
  • “Would you like me to call a counsellor now?” Point out that you are not qualified to help directly, but can help your employee connect with trained professionals.

Keep the personal safety of yourself and your employees’ top of mind and do not physically intervene in a violent situation or try to mediate relationship issues.

Good practice in working with perpetrators of domestic/intimate partner violence

All people engaging with perpetrators should adopt the following constructive good practice responses:

  • Be clear that abuse is always unacceptable and that it may constitute criminal behaviour
  • Be clear that abusive behaviour is a choice
  • Be respectful, but do not appear to be supportive of their abusive behaviour
  • Be positive, it is possible for perpetrators to change if they recognize that they have a problem and take steps to change their behaviour
  • Be clear that you might have to speak to other agencies if there are grounds to break confidentiality
  • Be aware that on some level the perpetrator may be unhappy about their behaviour
  • Be aware and tell the perpetrator that children are always negatively affected by living with domestic/intimate partner abuse, whether or not they witness it directly
  • Be aware, and convey to the perpetrator, that domestic/intimate partner abuse is about a range of controlling behaviours, not just physical violence
  • Be aware of the likely costs to the perpetrator of continued abuse (arrest, loss of relationship, negative impact on children) and assist them to see these


  1. Worksafe BC. Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace: A Handbook for Employers. 2012.
  2. Refuge and Respect. Domestic violence resource manual for employers, 2nd Edition. 2010.

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1. Respond

If employees disclose that they are experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence, there are a number of items to consider when responding:

Believe, reassure and support. It can be extremely difficult to disclose domestic/intimate partner violence. Believe the employee and do not ask for proof.

Disclosure of unlawful activity/serious offence. If you believe there is reasonable cause to suspect a person has committed a serious offence, then you should report this to the appropriate authorities. Protection for children and vulnerable adults – someone who may be in need of community care services by reasons of mental health, disability, age or other illness that renders them vulnerable to harm or exploitation.

Risk assessment. Following the disclosure of domestic/intimate partner violence, you should undertake a workplace risk assessment to ensure any potential risk to the employee and work colleagues are addressed and minimized.

Perceived risk to colleagues. If there is a perceived safety risk to work colleagues, you may consider it necessary to inform other employees so that they can take appropriate precautions. If this is the case, then you should advise the employee and agree on the best way to approach this. Ensure that the information shared is on a need-to-know basis and remind colleagues about the importance of confidentiality.

Safety planning. Work with the organization specialists (i.e. EAP, Security, Human Resources) and the employee to create and implement a workplace safety plan.

Internal and external sources of support. The workplace may be the only place where an abuser is unable to closely monitor their partner, unless both parties are employed by the same workplace, making it a good place for the abused person to access information and advice. Provide the employee with resources for support. Note: A referral to any form of “couples” or “joint family” counselling is inappropriate and unsafe when domestic/intimate partner violence is a risk.

Internal support. Explore leave options (while maintaining contact) and flexible work hours for the employee if the employee requires time off to sort out practical and legal issues such as counselling, visits to police/solicitor/court/support agency/housing/childcare, etc. If a leave option is selected, ensure you plan the employee’s return to work with them. Adjust performance targets and workloads. Where appropriate, arrange for wages to be paid in cash, into a different bank account, etc.

What if employees withdraw and refuse support?

While this may be frustrating, remember that it is their choice – they have the right to refuse or reject support and assistance. Do not become angry with an employee or show “disapproval.” Be clear that the organization is concerned about the employee’s safety and that they can still approach anyone in the organization for support and assistance if they change their mind. Give the employee information about who they can contact, now and in the future.

Responding to perpetrators

In the event that the perpetrator also works in the organization, this needs to be addressed.

Responding to perpetrators and showing your workforce that you will do so sends an important message. It is also an important and positive message to impart to those who are abused as it lets them know that others will take action about domestic/intimate partner violence.

Engaging with perpetrators of abuse in a positive, respectful way does not mean excusing the abuse. Employers have a duty of care towards their employees. This includes perpetrators of domestic/intimate partner violence, who, through their actions, are damaging their own lives as well as the lives of others.

Remember, if you feel unsafe starting a conversation with someone perpetrating violence, contact a professional for help. Safety is your primary concern and you should not put yourself or anyone else in your organization in a situation that seems unsafe.

Some items to consider when responding include:

Minimization and denial. Some perpetrators – even when they have sought help voluntarily – are unlikely to disclose the seriousness or extent of their abuse. They may try to “explain” or blame it on other people or external factors. Other factors may also present problems, such as alcohol, stress or depression, and the perpetrator may not refer directly to the abuse as the problem.

The nature of the conduct and the nature of the employee’s work. Where appropriate, you may need to take action to minimize the potential for perpetrators to use their position or work resources to find out details about the whereabouts of his/her partner. This may include a change of duties or withdrawing access to certain computer programs.

Risk to other employees and the general public. You may believe there is a conflict between the offence and the job that the employee is employed to do. In some cases, the fact that an employee is a perpetrator may make certain duties inappropriate and justify redeployment/disciplinary action. For example, it would be inappropriate for a perpetrator of domestic violence to be providing advice to vulnerable women and children and/or the public.

2. Refer

Domestic/intimate partner violence has complex impacts on the abused person. It is important to remember that your approach to domestic violence should be a supervisory/managerial commitment through which you suggest solutions within the sphere of your control and expertise. It is vital that additional specialists within the organization, such as Employee Assistance Program, are brought in and that employees disclosing domestic/intimate partner violence are made aware of additional internal and external sources of support.

3. Record

It is advisable to make comprehensive notes to retain detailed records if an employee discloses domestic/intimate partner violence. Any discussions about domestic/intimate partner violence and any actions agreed upon should be documented to provide as full a picture as possible.

It should be made clear that recording domestic/intimate partner violence will have no adverse impact on the employee’s employment record. You should record all absences in accordance with normal procedures, but if they relate to domestic/intimate partner violence, then they can be placed in a sealed envelope within the employee’s file marked “for manager and employee’s access only.”

Remember that you have a duty to maintain a safe workplace and this necessitates monitoring and recording all incidents of violence or threatening behaviour in the workplace. These may also include persistent telephone calls, emails, visits to the workplace by the perpetrator, etc.

This information can be used if the employee elects to press charges, or applies for an injunction or a court order. The organization could assist the employee to apply for an injunction if the actions of an alleged perpetrator affect the health and safety of the employee. Witnesses to such incidents should also be recorded.


  1. Refuge and Respect. Domestic violence resource manual for employers, 2nd Edition. 2010.

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Above is a video from WorkSafeBC on developing a workplace safety plan. A video transcript (pdf) is available for download.

Sample Safety Plan

Make It Our Business provides a generic sample safety plan, available for download.

As a supervisor, you are not expected to be an expert in domestic/intimate partner violence. However, you are responsible for protecting the health and safety of workers in the workplace, as well as for providing support to those you supervise. There are things you can do to support the workers in your workplace and to reduce the likelihood that domestic violence will compromise the health and safety of all workers, including the person experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence:

  • Provide the employee with information regarding the City’s Employee Assistance Program
  • Contact the Employee Assistance Program yourself if you require assistance in identifying appropriate steps to take in supporting the employee
  • Discuss individual needs and resources with employees who are experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence, such as:
    • A flexible work schedule or adjusted workload so they can attend medical and legal appointments
    • Time off or temporary leaves. Contact Human Resources if you need to explore available options
    • Safety planning for enhanced security. This can take the form of a “workplace safety plan” or “personal safety plan” or both. Corporate Security can assist you with establishing such plans, where needed
    • Any existing protection orders such as restraining orders, peace bonds or bail conditions
    • Keep lines of communication open
    • Follow up and monitor the situation
    • Provide the employee experiencing domestic violence with a resource list identifying local service providers that offer assistance
    • Respect the employee’s privacy as much as possible without compromising workplace safety; every situation is different and privacy and safety issues must be addressed on a case-by-case basis

A workplace safety plan and/or a personal safety plan might be needed for addressing domestic/intimate partner violence in the workplace.

What is a Workplace Safety Plan?

A workplace safety plan sets out specific actions that will be taken to help keep the workplace and all workers safe from threats of domestic/intimate partner violence.

What is a Personal Safety Plan?

A personal safety plan is designed to keep a specific employee who is experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence safe while at work. A personal safety plan will depend on the individual’s specific situation. Preferably it will be developed in consultation with the employee and tailored to their self-identified needs, keeping the overall safety of the workplace in mind.

Examples of actions that may be included in safety plans are identified below. Not all of these suggestions will be appropriate in all circumstances. In consultation with the employee who is experiencing domestic/intimate partner violence, you may also identify safety plan components that are not on these lists. Consultation with Corporate Security and the EAP may also assist in identifying other appropriate interventions.

A Workplace Safety Plan might include the following prevention steps:

  • Making emergency phone numbers readily available — next to or on the phone
  • Ensuring the workplace is well lit and secure, both inside and outside
  • Making sure employees know how to report concerns or threats
  • Specifying when police should be called and when doors should be locked
  • Creating code words so staff can discreetly alert others to potential danger
  • Installing panic buttons and/or personal alarms for staff

Note: Some of these may already be in place to protect against all forms of workplace violence

A personal safety plan might include the following:

  • Establishing clear communication procedures for the employee to report a threat at work
  • Providing the perpetrator’s photo or physical description to reception, security and/or staff working nearby
  • Screening the employee’s calls to reduce harassment, providing the employee with a phone that has caller identification or having another employee record a generic voice mail greeting
  • Obtaining an emergency contact telephone number, other than the perpetrator’s, in case the employee is late or absent from work
  • Arranging for an escort to and from the employee’s vehicle or public transit at the beginning and end of each work day
  • Providing the employee with a parking spot near the building entrance to increase her/his sense of security
  • Relocating the employee to another workstation away from windows and doors, or away from the place the perpetrator expects to find them
  • Relocating the employee to another worksite
  • Connecting the employee with services available in the community or through the workplace
  • Integrating strategies that the employee already has in place to increase her/his safety

You may be faced with a situation in which two employees are involved in a domestic/intimate partner violence situation with each other. This can be a highly volatile situation. If two employees are involved in a domestic/intimate partner violence situation with each other, appropriate action may include:

  • Eliminating or minimizing the possibility of contact between the employees while at work (e.g. scheduling the workers on different shifts and keeping the schedule private)
  • Offering appropriate referrals to both employees, such as giving them information about where they can get help
  • Developing a personal safety plan with employees to address their needs at work
  • Talking to your employee who is the abuser and being clear about exactly what was said or done, and why it is unacceptable
  • Taking disciplinary steps to hold the abuser accountable for any inappropriate or unacceptable behaviour in the workplace
  • Making it clear that workplace resources should not be used to harass, stalk, or abuse the partner
  • Keeping lines of communication open with both employees



  1. Worksafe BC. Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace: A Handbook for Employers. 2012.
  2. Public Services Health & Safety Association. Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace: A Handbook, 2nd Edition. August 2010.
  3. Western Education Make It Our Business. Individualized Safety Plan Template. Last visited August 31, 2016.


 Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
The City of Toronto’s EAP, provided by TELUS Health, offers confidential short-term counselling, information and referral services to members of the Toronto Public Service and eligible family members. Call 1-833-382-5610 or 437-880-7228 (for City landline) – 24/7.
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Employee Health and Wellness
Employee Health and Wellness provides multi-disciplinary expertise to the employee and the workplace when health-related issues impact on an employee’s ability to do his/her job. Call 416-392-7330.


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Domestic/Intimate Partner Violence Poster
To raise awareness of this issue, please print and post this in your workplace.


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Make It Our Business provides a series of webinar recordings and related resources.

Domestic Violence in the Workplace Course

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) offers an e-Course on domestic violence.
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Certified Online Training
Make It Our Business recognizes that many workplaces struggle to develop and implement policies and procedures to prevent and address domestic violence in the workplace. Certified Online Training is offered to assist in preparing everyone in the workplace to recognize signs and also to respond and seek help when workers are experiencing domestic violence.
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Company Program Approach
Make It Our Business has designed a systematic ‘whole company’ approach that allows organizations of all sizes to build skill, knowledge and confidence to address domestic violence in the workplace.