Federally regulated workers to get training to recognize, prevent domestic violence

Researchers hope the training will spark conversations about domestic violence

Original Article: CBC News  |  Kate Dubinsk  |  May 01, 2019

The London, Ont.- based Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children will get more than $2 million to develop a training program for workers to recognize and respond to situations of domestic violence. 

The training program will be offered to all federally-regulated workers under a partnership with the Canadian Labour Congress and transportation and communications workers.

"So many people have experiences of domestic violence and we need to be able to talk about it," said Barb MacQuarrie, the community director of the centre and the researcher behind the training program. 

"We need to be able to take it out of the dark corners where the problem festers and gets worse, and say that there are small steps we can take to increase people's safety and small things we can do to help people through a process to gain safety in their life." 

The training will be seen by more than 500,000 employees in sectors in banks, air and rail transportation, telecommunications and marine shipping, among others. 

Co-workers aware but unsure of what to do

Recent changes to the Canadian Labour Code allows survivors of domestic violence five paid days off to leave their abusive partners, get medical or legal help or deal with police. The code also recognizes domestic violence as a workplace hazard and requires training. 

Neighbours, friends and co-workers of women killed by their intimate partners have told researchers they knew something was wrong before an incident but didn't know how to approach the victim or didn't know how bad the situation was. 

"Workplaces are opening to the possibility that they can be a partner in addressing domestic violence and they are beginning to acknowledge the very real impacts that domestic violence has on productivity, safety and even their reputations," MacQuarrie said.

"We have early adopters who are already doing a lot of training and support, and now we have a big wave of workplaces that now see the benefit of this for their employees and for our own production goals and safety and for our communities." 

Those who experience domestic may be tired, may be dealing with harassing phone calls or text messages while on the job or can't come to work at all because of an incident, MacQuarrie said.  

Many provinces, including Ontario, offer five days of paid leave for domestic violence, plus additional unpaid days off. 

Employers and unions can choose from an interactive, one-hour seminar for front-line staff, a three-hour online session for supervisors and an intense full-day course with a facilitator. All of the training is offered online. 

Western University, where the centre is based, is also conducting research to study the annual financial impact of domestic violence in the workplace.