Introduction to the employer's toolkit banner

Knowing how to start a conversation about family violence with an employee can be difficult.  Your role as an employer or supervisor is not to be a counsellor, but rather to approach the employee in a professional, sensitive manner and find out what help is required and where the employee can find it.

When an employee tells you about abuse, make a strong statement of support such as, “no one deserves to be abused.”  When talking with an employee, your role is primarily to:

  • provide initial support
  • discuss the specific steps that can be taken to help this employee in the workplace
  • refer the employee to available resources in the community or to an employee assistance program

When addressing the issue of family violence with an employee, ensure that you:

  • offer to meet in private
  • clearly identify any job performance problems you have observed (ex:  “I notice that you are having difficulty meeting your deadlines and you don’t seem quite yourself. Is there anything I can do to help?”)
  • express empathy that sometimes personal issues can interfere with work performance
  • are aware that family violence victims and offenders can be of either sex; do not always refer to abusers as “he”
  • use respectful language such as calling a person by their name or referring to the nature of the relationship such as “your partner” or “your boyfriend”; avoid using labels such as “abuser” or “batterer”
  • are sensitive and avoid accusing, diagnosing or drawing conclusions about the situation
  • listen to what the employee has to say and support her/him to seek help
  • reassure the employee that her/his situation will not adversely affect how she/he is regarded by the company, unless there are any continued employment issues
  • offer company and community resources such as employee assistance plan information or contact information for family violence prevention services and crisis line numbers
  • develop a plan to help the employee maintain job performance and a strategy to implement it
  • discuss the need for a protection plan in the workplace; help the employee understand how your security people (where available) may be able to support a workplace protection plan
  • recommend that the employee speak to a trained counsellor who can help develop a sound plan to deal with the issues; resources may include an employee assistance plan or crisis line counsellors and other domestic abuse prevention professionals in the community
  • help the employee determine if the abuser’s behaviour may put others in the workplace at risk
  • if it appears that others in the workplace might be in danger, discuss the extent to which the employee’s confidentiality can be maintained

Adapted from:  safe@work coalition (