A colleague tells you that they are the victim of domestic violence. How can you help? You can listen and be supportive while remembering to respect the person’s privacy and choices. You can also learn about the resources that are available at your workplace. If you witness an emergency where someone’s life is in danger, you should contact the police.
If a colleague confides in you about a situation of domestic violence, you must, in general, not discuss it with anyone else without your colleague’s permission. Let your colleague set their own pace. Don’t discuss the situation with your employer or the police unless your colleague agrees to this. Domestic violence is part of a person’s private life, and you must not violate their right to privacy, even if you think it would help.
- If your colleague has children and you are concerned about their well-being, you may have to report the situation to the Director of Youth Protection (DYP).
- If you witness an emergency where someone’s life is in danger, you must do what you can to help them. This can mean providing physical assistance if you are able or calling the police.
In other cases, you cannot talk about your colleague’s situation without their agreement.
However, you can listen to them and make yourself available to help. You can also consult with domestic violence support services in your own name if you are concerned or need advice.
Resources in your workplace
You can find out what measures your employer has put in place to support your colleague. Indeed, employers must take measures to protect victims of domestic violence in their workplace. They must do so when they know — or ought reasonably to know — that a person is a victim of domestic violence. Employers also have a duty to eliminate risks to the safety or health of their workers.
For example, there may be a resource person in your workplace who has been trained to provide this kind of assistance. Your employer may also work with your colleague to establish a personalized support or safety plan. This could include:
- moving your colleague’s workstation out of a publicly visible area
- allowing them to be accompanied by a colleague throughout their shift
Employers must also allow victims of domestic violence to be absent from work. Depending on the sector in which you work, your employer is required to provide the following leave:
Provincially Regulated Sectors
Federally Regulated Sectors
Amount of unpaid leave per 12-month period
Amount of paid leave
(for people who have worked for at least 3 months continually)
the first 2 days
the first 5 days
Check your conditions of employment or collective agreement, as these sometimes provide more generous rules for time off in these situations.
Trainees (or interns) who work in provincially regulated sectors also have the right to these leaves of absence in some cases. Even when they don’t, their employers must still accommodate them when possible. Contact the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (CNESST or abour standards, pay equity and workplace health and safety board) to find out more.
Trainees (or interns) who work in federally regulated sectors have the same rights as paid workers who experience domestic violence. If they’re doing paid training, they usually have the right to the same paid leaves of absence as paid workers. Contact the Labour Program to find out more.
For more information
You can also refer your colleague to Éducaloi’s Domestic Violence Web Guide.