We are noting an unhappy trend in news headlines lately – we’ve seen an unsettling amount of news stories from various parts of the country reporting on an increase in domestic violence: California, Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Louisiana all report spikes in the number of reported cases of domestic violence. And in Pennsylvania, officials sound an alarm about domestic violence deaths – thirty such deaths occurred in the state during a 30-day period beginning June 22, according to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
These are just the few headlines we’ve gleaned from a Google search of news items in the last few weeks; no doubt, they are merely the tip of the iceberg. A correlation between the economy and domestic violence makes complete sense to most counselors and professionals who work with troubled people: when they economy falters, domestic violence rises. Money is one of the most disputed family issues in the best of times, but when pressures mount – job loss, home foreclosures, increased costs of living – frayed tempers often give way to violence.
A spike in domestic violence should be of concern to employers for a number of reasons. The health and well-being of workers is directly linked to productivity, and a problem as highly highly intense and disruptive as domestic violence leads to absenteeism, lower productivity, turnover, and excessive use of medical benefits. Researchers from the University of Arkansas found that women who were victims of recent domestic violence had 26 percent more time lost to tardiness and absenteeism than non-victims. And violence frequently spills over into the workplace. In a National Safe Workplace Institute survey, 94% of corporate security directors ranked partner violence as a high security problem.
From our vantage as an EAP, we see that employers can play a pivotal role in helping to curb domestic violence. That help may be as simple as being alert for warning signs and making referrals to an EAP to instituting a full workplace awareness and education program. One good resource that employers should know about is the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence. They offer an extensive library of resources ranging from educational materials and sample policies to practical dos and don’ts for employers. One resource that we find particularly helpful is the best practice library where programs from a few dozen of the nation’s most prominent employers are profiled – it’s a good way to get ideas for things you could do at your workplace.