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Domestic Violence in the Workplace

Ryerson University Quad, facing south east looking at the Kerr Hall clock tower.

The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect their employees from domestic violence that would likely cause physical injury in the workplace. If you are a leader you have a legal obligation to take action by consulting with Consent Comes First and connecting the staff member with supports.

Domestic violence may not only affect the targeted employee but could also put their co-workers at risk. Employees should make their leaders aware if they are concerned that domestic violence may enter the workplace so that we can work together to develop a safety plan.

Domestic violence is defined as any form of physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse, including financial control, stalking and harassment. It occurs between intimate partners of all genders who may or may not be married, common law or living together. It can also continue to happen after a relationship has ended.

Canadian employers lose $77.9 million annually due to the direct and indirect impacts of domestic violence and the costs to individuals, families and society go far beyond that. However, we know very little about the scope and impacts of this problem in Canada.

The Canadian Labour Council and the University of Western Ontario conducted the first-ever Canadian PDF filesurvey on domestic violence in the workplace, external link. Key findings include:

  • 1 in 3 workers has been subjected to domestic violence in their lifetime.
  • Of those who had, 82% found that domestic violence negatively affected their work performance (through distraction, tiredness, lateness, interruptions at work from the abuser, poor concentration and absenteeism).
  • 53% said they experienced violence at or near the workplace.
  • 38% reported that domestic violence affected their ability to get to work.
  • 37% said that it negatively impacted their co-workers.
  • 5% lost their job as a result of domestic violence.

Partner or ex will: 

  • Repeatedly phoning or emailing them
  • Stalking and/or watching the victim
  • Showing up at the workplace and pestering co-workers with questions about the victim (where is she/he, who is she/he with, when will she/he be back, etc.)
  • Lying to coworkers (she/he’s sick today, she/he’s out of town, she/he’s home with a sick child, etc.)
  • Threatening co-workers (If you don’t tell me, I’ll…)
  • Verbally abusing the victim or co-workers
  • Displaying jealous and controlling behaviours
  • Destroying the victim’s or organization’s property
  • Physically harming the victim and/or co-workers

Source: Swanberg, Macke & Logan 2006; Swanberg, Macke & Logan 2007; Zachary 2000

  • Obvious injuries such as bruises, hearing loss are often attributed to “falls,” “being clumsy,” or “accidents”. 
  • Minimization or denial of harassment or injuries.
  • Being in emotional distress or flatness, tearfulness, depression, isolation, being unusually quiet or sharing suicidal thoughts.
  • Sensitivity about home life or hints of trouble at home. Comments may include references to bad moods, anger, temper or violent behaviour when intoxicated.
  • Acts like someone off-camera is watching their every move and interaction.
  • Rarely turn on their camera for video calls.
  • Change in job/school performance, poor concentration, errors, inconsistent work quality.
  • An unusual number of phone calls/text messages/DMs eliciting strong reactions and/or a reluctance to respond.
  • Fear of job loss or describing lack of access to money.

Adapted from Make It Our Business, external link.

Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Leave

Pursuant to the Employment Standard Act, people who have been employed at Ryerson for at least 13 weeks are entitled to domestic or sexual violence leave if the employee or the employee’s child has experienced or been threatened with domestic or sexual violence. They can take the leave:

  • To seek medical attention for the employee or the child of the employee.
  • To access services from victim services organizations.
  • To have psychological or other professional counselling. 
  • To move temporarily or permanently.
  • To seek legal or law enforcement assistance, including making a police report or getting ready for or participating in a family court, civil or criminal trial.

There are two options for this leave:

  1. up to 10 days  
  2. up to 15 weeks 

Up to 10 days leave option

Up to 15 weeks leave option

Employees can take up to 10 days of leave (between 1-10 days) consecutively or separately. 


For example, taking 2 days leave in September, 1 day leave in October, and 5 days leave in November.

Employees can take up to 15 weeks of leave (between 1-15 weeks) consecutively or separately. 


For example, taking 10 weeks leave in September, and 3 weeks leave in October. 


An employee can’t separate the weeks into days. For example, an employee can’t take 3 days off in one week and 2 days off in another week to total 1 week. 

Up to 10 days leave option

Up to 15 weeks leave option

The up to 0 days leave is for each calendar year as required.

The up to 15 weeks leave is for each calendar year as required. 

Up to 10 days leave option

Up to 15 weeks leave option

The first 5 days of leave are paid. The rest of the days are unpaid. 

The first 5 days of leave (the first week) are paid. The rest of the weeks are unpaid.

Up to 10 days leave option

Up to 15 weeks leave option

If an employee takes a partial workday as leave, this may count  as one full day of leave.

For example, if an employee has an 8-hour shift and works 4 hours (taking leave for the other 4 hours), it would still count as 1 out of the 10 days of leave. 

If an employee takes 1+ day(s) of the workweek as leave, this may  count as one full week of leave.

For example, if an employee works 3 days of the week and is on leave for 2 days of that same week, it would count as 1 out of the 15 weeks of leave. 

Up to 10 days leave option

Up to 15 weeks leave option

If an employee wants more time after completing 10 days’ leave, they may additionally opt for the 15 weeks’ leave option. 

An employee may opt for the up to 15 weeks leave option after completing the 10 days leave option.

Paid leave in this case will only be the first 5 days of the initial 10 days leave.

It is not necessary to first complete the 10 days leave option before opting for the up to 15 weeks leave option.

Up to 10 days leave option

Up to 15 weeks leave option

The employee must notify the employer in advance of the leave. If unable to notify the employer in advance, the employee must notify the employer ASAP after starting the leave.

The notice does not have to be in writing.

The employee must notify the employer in advance of the leave. If unable to notify the employer in advance, the employee must notify the employer ASAP after starting the leave.

The notice must be in writing. 

How to support

If someone discloses sexual violence to you, it’s okay to not have all the answers. You don’t need to be an expert to support them.

If someone discloses domestic violence to you, it’s okay to not have all the answers. You don’t need to be an expert to support them. Ratherm try to remember to be BRAVE: B. Begin by listening. Don't pry or press for additional details. R. Respect confidentiality. Ensure they understand how and when you will share the information they have provided you. A. Ask what support looks like to them. Let go of assumptions. Reporting to the police is not every survivor's vision of justice. V. Validate them. Remind them it is not their fault and they are believed. E. Empathize. Understand everyone has a different way of healing from violence. Ryerson University Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education #ConsentComesFirst

A co-worker or leader can support some subjected to domestic violence by getting information for themselves. Please consult with Consent Comes First with ways to provide information to another Ryerson employee in a trauma-informed and violence-informed way.

How to check-in verbally 

Always try to check in with warmth, curiosity, compassion, not in a probing manner. It is also important to address a person when they are in a private space. 

  • “I am concerned about you. You seem isolated and afraid. Are you ok? How can I help?"
  • “I’ve noticed that you’ve had trouble meeting your deadlines lately. Is there anything happening that is making it hard to manage your workload?”
  • “You seem upset/distracted lately, how are you? Is there any way I can help?”

How to check-in by text or email

Sometimes a person’s email/texts/social media might be monitored so be careful what you include in writing. Keep it brief.

  • “How else can I be of support to you?”
  • “How are you doing?”
  • “Get in touch with me when you can. I’m here to listen”
  • Do you want me to reach out to you regularly?

There are several internal supports available at Ryerson for employees being subjected to domestic violence.

The following is a select list of external support services. Please contact them directly or Consent Comes First for specific services for you.