Introduction to the employer's toolkit banner

A supportive work environment can empower an employee to accept help when dealing with family violence – something that often spills over into the workplace.  Supportive work environments have clear commitment from their top management which filters down through an organization. Employers who develop and implement policies and practices that support the well-being and productivity of all employees are making a positive investment in their organizations.

Regardless of size or structure, all organizations can take practical, realistic steps to counter the negative impacts of family violence on employees, co-workers and the larger community. Employers can help in several ways.

Establish and Demonstrate Your Organization's Position on Family Violence

Publicize your support for violence prevention, and those affected by it, through internal memos, letters from senior management, presentations at staff meetings, posters, payroll inserts, e-mail messages and company newsletters.

Provide Information and Training for Staff

Promote awareness and understanding of family violence issues among supervisors, human resource personnel and employees by:

  • displaying family violence prevention posters, brochures, stickers and resource lists in staff rooms, cafeterias and washrooms
  • inviting community service providers to conduct noon-hour lunch-and-learn sessions on family violence and the local resources available
  • scheduling professional development days for management and staff to review company policies on family violence

Develop Supportive Workplace Policies

Workplace policies on family violence can be based on your organization's harassment policies. They can also incorporate definitions used in the Canadian labour and human rights codes. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy on workplace violence and include policy statements specific to partner violence. A sample is included at the end of this fact sheet.

Create a Positive Work Environment

Boosting employee morale and reducing stress can contribute to feelings of self-worth, particularly for victims of family violence. Offer wellness or stress reduction programs and regular employee appreciation events and celebrations.

Create Health and Safety Committees and Employee Assistance Programs

Workplace health and safety committees and employee assistance programs help organizations monitor, update, change and develop policies and practices to:

  • assess and manage risk
  • recognize signs of abusive relationships
  • train supervisors to recognize and respond to signs of abuse
  • provide information and programs on violence prevention and ensure the availability of counselling and referral services for employees

Even if your organization does not have a formal committee, an assistance program or security services, as an employer you can still help increase safety and security for victims of family violence.

  • Ensure parking lots and corridors are well-lit.
  • Install security mirrors or emergency contact alarms.
  • Provide priority parking spots close to the building.
  • Offer to walk a vulnerable employee to her/his vehicle.
  • Offer to have the employee’s incoming calls screened.
  • Provide the employee with a cell phone.
  • Offer to change the employee’s shift or work location.
  • Provide crisis line numbers and resource information to all staff.
  • Provide a picture of the abuser to security or reception personnel.
  • Maintain a current emergency contact person for the employee.
  • Work with local law enforcement.

Demonstrate Respectful Behaviour in the Workplace

Employers who demonstrate respectful behaviour create a sense of security and stability within the work environment, particularly for those dealing with family violence.  For some victims, work may be the only place that feels safe.

  • Be approachable and make time to meet with employees.
  • Address job performance issues constructively, not punitively.
  • Let employees know that they are valued members of the team.
  • Respect decisions made by employees who are living with family violence.
  • Protect the confidentiality of employees.
  • Ensure cultural sensitivity and appropriateness.
  • Ensure employees have access to trained counsellors.

Practise Good Corporate Citizenship

Building and maintaining healthy communities is a good business practice. We all have a role to play in promoting family violence awareness and prevention. Employers can help end family violence within our communities by:

  • donating services or products to local family violence service agencies
  • sponsoring community programs on family violence
  • participating in good Samaritan activities like fundraising drives
  • initiating or participating in public awareness campaigns on family violence

Sample Family Violence Policy

The following sample is based on a model developed in 2006 by the New Brunswick Family Violence and the Workplace Committee to help employers design and establish effective workplace policies, procedures and protocols.

  • Company/organization name recognizes that family violence enters the workplace and affects the safety of victims and coworkers. It causes lost productivity, increased health care costs, increased absenteeism and increased employee turnover.
  • It is the policy of (company/organization name) that each of our employees has the right to work in an environment free of violence.  Every employee has the right to get help (through the employee assistance program where one exists) with issues of violence, even when it is happening outside the workplace.  Violence, as defined in this policy, means a pattern of coercion or harm one person uses to hurt or intimidate another through the use of physical force, verbal harassment or manipulation to maintain power and control over the victim.
  • A variety of methods will be used to promote family violence prevention and workplace safety, including:

Employee Awareness

As an organization:

  • We will distribute a statement that expresses our opposition to all acts of violence, including family violence, to all our employees/supervisors/managers.
  • We will post copies of the family violence policy, information posters and other media prominently in areas accessible to employees, customers and suppliers.
  • We will provide information to all employees about the services available to help deal with any workplace or family violence issues.

Workplace Safety

As an organization:

  • We will help eliminate the potential for violence in and around the worksite by reviewing our workplace environment and minimizing, where possible, physical situations that may expose our employees to violence.
  • We will provide reasonable means to talk to and help victimized employees create and implement a workplace safety plan.
  • We will enforce all known court orders, including those instructing an abuser to stay away from the work site.
  • We will have an emergency security plan, including procedures for contacting the police when employees observe anyone engaging in threatening behaviour.
  • We will look for ways to help victimized employees. This may include exploring options for voluntary relocation of the victimized employee, escorting employees as they enter and exit the building, and dealing with harassing telephone, e-mail and faxes.

Supportive and Non-Discriminatory Policies

As an organization:

  • We will take reasonable measures to develop policies, practices and measures that deal with employee absenteeism, productivity, safety and requirements for support and counselling related to family violence.
  • We will ensure that our policies and practices do not discriminate against employees experiencing family violence, and we will be responsive to their needs as victims.
  • We will not base staffing decisions on any assumption about or knowledge of an employee’s exposure to family violence.


As an organization:

  • We will make regular training on family violence, and its impact on the workplace, available for all managers, supervisors, human resources and security staff.
  • We will train staff on the signs of family violence, its impact on the workplace, how to make appropriate referrals, the importance of maintaining confidentiality and how individual responses and safety plans can be developed.

Responsibility for Policy

  • We will ensure that all managers and supervisors follow our family violence policy and distribute copies to all employees.
  • Employees with questions or complaints about family violence affecting workplace behaviour may discuss them with _____________. Concerns will be addressed appropriately.

We believe that our organization has a role to play in preventing family violence and building a safer society.