Sask. study suggests government do more to help victims of domestic violence at work

A report on how domestic violence affects Saskatchewan workplaces recommends the government do more to help victims on the job.

Paid time off, workplace safety plans and increased support all proposed

Saskatchewan domestic violence workers say the government should follow Manitoba's lead and give workers experiencing abuse paid time off. (CBC)

A report on how domestic violence affects Saskatchewan workplaces recommends the government do more to help victims on the job.

The provincial study, which included online surveys done by 437 respondents as well as focus groups and interviews with 27 others, was prepared by the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan (PATHS).

It found half of those interviewed had experienced abuse — compared to one-third of those surveyed in a Canadian study.

Of those who experienced abuse at home, 83 per cent said it affected them at work.

"I was taking a lot of leave. Not once was I ever asked, 'Hey are you OK?' says one of the victims interviewed in the study.

The study has prompted a number of recommendations to the federal and provincial government, including paid time off for victims of domestic violence.

Crystal Giesbrecht, director of research and communications with the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, outlines some key findings in her study. (Cory Herperger/CBC)

"When we can keep people in their workplaces, productivity goes up," said Crystal Giesbrecht, who prepared the report for PATHS.

"People's safety goes up, there's less cost associated with retraining and with hiring. So the costs of the leaves really are minimal."

Giesbrecht said employers are already paying for domestic violence in the workplace, whether they realize it or not. She notes prior research which has pegged the cost of spousal violence in Canadian workplaces at nearly $78 million, due to tardiness, distraction and administrative costs.

Manitoba has passed a law which provides up to 10 days of workplace leave, five of which are paid.

The Opposition is asking the government to do the same in Saskatchewan. Earlier this year, the government did adopt a recommendation to help tenants break a lease if they are experiencing domestic violence.

The government has said it could introduce further legislation during the fall sitting of the legislature.

The report also recommends more awareness in the workplace about the signs of domestic violence and how to respond to them.

"Because you see your co-workers every day on a day-to-day basis, you're in a good position to actually notice red flags that violence is imminent or occurring," said Jo-Anne Dusel, executive director of PATHS.

Nearly half of those surveyed said while they knew or suspected a co-worker was being abused, only 13 per cent reported it.

Dusel said more education about when and how to speak up can save lives.