NUPGE releases backgrounder on domestic violence at work

The NUPGE Women’s Committee meets this week to discuss how workers and their unions have an important role to play in furthering awareness and enhancing supports for victims of domestic violence, as well as, in fighting to end domestic violence altogether.

Ottawa (16 Jan. 2020) ― The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is releasing a backgrounder entitled, Domestic Violence, Workers, and Workplaces. It provides an overview of the prevalence of domestic violence, its impact on workers and workplaces in Canada, and supports for those affected.

Understanding domestic violence

Domestic violence (DV) is synonymous with intimate partner violence or spousal abuse. It involves “a pattern of behaviour used by one person to gain power and control over another with whom they have or have had an intimate relationship.”

Anyone can be a victim of DV, but women and girls are more likely to be affected, as are gender diverse people. The prevalence of gender-based violence, including DV, is disproportionately higher for those who are racialized, Indigenous, living with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, and LGBTQI2S people.

Domestic violence is a workplace issue

For a person experiencing violence, it impacts all aspects of their life, and that includes their work. Of those workers who have experienced DV, the Pan-Canadian Survey on Domestic Violence and the Workplace finds that:

  • over 80% report that it negatively impacted their work performance;

  • for 38%, DV interfered with their ability to get to work;

  • over half experienced some type of abuse at or near t;he workplace

  • over one-third reported that their co-workers were affected.

Importantly, though, work can also be a source of safety, support, and economic security.

Dedicated leave and other supports

In Canada, the protections for workers experiencing DV are piecemeal. However, in recent years, DV leave has been the focus of much advocacy and consequently, has emerged as a key protection across jurisdictions.

Job-protected DV leave is important because a person may need to take time off from work to address health, safety, or legal issues associated with DV. Time off may be essential to leaving an abusive partner, finding housing, and/or caring for children.

Relatedly, access to affordable housing and adequately-resourced shelters, transition houses, and other community resources is crucial to providing immediate safety, as well as, long-term healing and resiliency, to the victims and survivors of DV.

There are also international standards and guidelines, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention on Violence and Harassment, which gives specific consideration to the work-related effects of DV. NUPGE has called on the Canadian government to ratify the Convention.

Domestic violence is a union issue

Workers and their unions have an important role to play in furthering awareness and enhancing supports for victims of DV, as well as, in fighting to end DV altogether. Union representatives provide direct support to members experiencing violence and their co-workers.

Unions also advance protections like DV leave at the bargaining table. They also conduct research, provide educational materials and training, and advocate for legislative and policy change.

NUPGE women’s committee tackles workplace violence

As NUPGE’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Issues (ACWI) meets in Ottawa this week, the backgrounder will be part of an important discussion on violence in the workplace, including domestic violence at work.

The ACWI has long been involved in advocacy related to supports for victims of domestic violence at work, and in the fight against gender-based violence more broadly. For example, the ACWI has led efforts to raise awareness and speak out about the horrific violence against Rohingya women.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE