Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Workplace Policies and Domestic Violence - Does One Size Fit All?

I often get asked about different kinds of policies to address different types of workplaces with respect to domestic violence.

Not all workplaces are the same, and not all workplace cultures have the same kinds of policies. Some are very brief and have a different set of procedures or guidelines to go with their policies, and some policies are all-inclusive.

Some workplaces have union employees, some do not. So there are differences in the way that policies are constructed depending on the organization or type of employer, but not necessarily what kinds of issues should be touched upon.

For sample policies and resources you can check out http://www.caepv.org/ - we have tons of great resources and a sample policy to get you started from the "Start A Workplace Program" section.

For a great policy from an institution of higher education – specifically Buffalo State College – check out their policy at http://www.buffalostate.edu/offices/hr/dvwp.asp. It is just one example of many but gets away from the idea that only a "corporation" would have such a policy (and believe me, I've been told that!)

I also have to give “props” to my friends at the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) in the State of New York. Amy Barasch (the Executive Director) has done an amazing job, and they are working with all state agencies in New York to get policies in place. For more on that, check http://www.opdv.state.ny.us/workplace/index.html.

Remember -- policies can be scalable and amenable to your workplace culture. But policies can also be put in a drawer and never used if they are not followed up with training and education and awareness programs within the workplace so managers and employees know what to do, who to talk to, and what resources are available.

For example, one of our CAEPV member companies places links for resources in several different locations on its employee intranet, so an employee in need of help related to domestic violence does not just go to the "Domestic Violence" spot to find it. They may find it in a Work/Life section, or a Workplace Safety section, or a Family Life section, or many other areas of the intranet. Not only does this provide information in easily accessible ways, it makes the issue one that shows up regularly so even employees who may not need the help (right now) see it.

Domestic violence comprised 24% of the workplace violence incidents reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in their survey of businesses with 1,000 or more employees - more than "criminal incidents" at 17% -- so it would be wise for any company to attend to this issue in the same way they think about potential crime at the workplace.


Anonymous said...

Domestic violence is an issue that should be widely known no matter what the company structure. Sadly, I do not recall any of my previous employers incorporating this issue in their agendas when it comes to the well-being of their employees. With the heightened popularity of the Rihanna/Chris Brown case, it's more important than ever to raise awareness and education. Employers need to understand this.

Kim Wells said...

Judi - thank you for your comment. I am sorry your previous employers did not incorporate this issue - it is sort of "new" on the horizon of enlightened employers - actually only about 13% of employers do (according to a 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey), so we have a long way to go.

I agree it is more important than ever to address this issue -- and thank you for being part of the dialogue!