Gender-based violence is a disruptive workplace challenge, and it’s hiding in plain sight.
It costs American businesses on average $8.3 billion a year in health and lost productivity.
Many employers do not realize that some of their employees are struggling with gender-based violence – intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking. Gender-based violence disrupts the workplace in ways that are often unrecognized.
More than 1 in 3 women and more than 1 in 4 men in the United States report having experienced physical violence, rape and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. This epidemic does not discriminate by social or economic class.
Historically, society views gender-based violence as a personal problem. Why should it matter to employers? Gender-based violence experienced outside of work affects the workplace through decreased performance, engagement, retention and safety.
Seventy-four percent of employed survivors report they were harassed by their partner while at work. This caused 56 percent to be late for work at least five times per month, 28 percent to leave early at leave five days per month, and 54 percent to miss at least three full days of work a month.
By implementing workplace policies to address gender-based violence and creating a workplace culture that supports survivors, employers can decrease the negative impact of gender-based violence on their company.
Gender-based violence is a common and complex public health epidemic. There is a strong possibility that you have employees experiencing gender-based violence or are employing a perpetrator of gender-based violence. The signs of gender-based violence extend beyond bruising and unexplained injuries.
The signs in the workplace could include a pattern of emotional and financial abuse, controlling behaviors, stalking, sabotage, disruptive calls, texts, and/or visits to the workplace, unplanned time off, tardiness, someone waiting outside, and more.
If you are concerned that an employee may be experiencing gender-based violence, please reach out to a survivor support service. These experts can help you navigate the situation. Alternatively, if you think you may be employing a perpetrator, a survivor support service can help you navigate this situation.
Gender-based violence affects businesses through absenteeism, turnover, decreased safety, lost productivity, health costs and more. Intimate partner violence costs American businesses on average $8.3 billion a year in health and lost productivity, and $7.9 million a year in paid workdays. Sixty percent of intimate partner violence survivors report losing their job. Ninety-six percent of gender-based violence survivors report their work performance suffered. Sixty-seven percent report their abuser came to the workplace.
Gender-based violence is disruptive to business and has a profound impact on the economic well-being of families in our community.
We recommend engaging experts, like Women Helping Women, to review your workplace policies and train your staff. This workplace epidemic needs a comprehensive approach to ensure employers are helping their employees, not creating more barriers for them.
Women Helping Women’s WorkStrong program is a national certification program that helps companies address workplace issues surrounding gender-based violence. For more information on their services, visit https://workstrongtogether.org/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Normalize procedures for reporting and discussing gender-based violence during orientation
During all employee onboarding, include information on workplace resources and accommodations for gender-based violence. Be clear about the reporting process within the organization as well as company policies in place to support survivors. By including this in your orientation, it will normalize your process without the need to isolate any employees.
Provide leave and other reasonable accommodations and assistance
Survivors of gender-based violence may need accommodations to obtain protection, legal assistance or trauma-informed services from crisis intervention agencies. This may require the employee to miss work for court dates or take extended leave to ensure their safety and well-being. Employers should collaborate with their employees to provide reasonable and flexible paid leave options.
Conduct regular trainings with a certified gender-based violence expert
Ongoing training is critical for the leadership team and workforce. Trainings can provide awareness and education needed for supervisors and co-workers to identify signs of gender-based violence and respond appropriately. This is also an opportunity to remind employees of the organization’s workplace policies and accommodations.
We recommend engaging your local gender-based violence experts to conduct these trainings with your workforce. They can provide an outside perspective and tailor the program for your company.
Create a safety plan for your employee survivors
Gender-based violence experts regularly work with survivors to create safety plans for the survivor’s home and community. With the survivor’s permission, these experts can help create a safety plan for the survivor’s workplace, too. It is important to give survivors a choice about implementing safety plans. Implementing safety plans without considering the survivor’s wishes can cause increased safety concerns. For instance, insisting an employee get a protection order, or screening an employee’s calls without their permission can potentially escalate a dangerous situation and compromise their safety. If a survivor needs assistance with safety planning, please reach out to a survivor support service.
“The session pushed me to think beyond blatant harassment and endangerment scenarios. It’s not always as obvious as inappropriate comments, touching, or even visible bruises. I learned ways to recognize the signs and learned the right levels for approaching potential scenarios. I now think, “The worst that can happen is that I am wrong about what I thought I saw.” And in the best case, I have potentially assisted with someone getting help.” –Erin Schnurstein, 84.51°
“It's rare to find a training where employees walk away with actual practical skills, especially which apply in and out of the workplace. WorkStrong helped create a dialogue internally that might not have been there organically. Women Helping Women worked closely with us every step of the way in a true partnership. The WorkStrong training has been one of the best trainings we've ever offered.”
- Pete Fernandez, Human Resource Director, Rhinegeist Brewery
“This program takes a hidden workplace issue and addresses it as proactively and forcefully as possible.”
-Shonda Sullivan, Director of Human Resources, Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
“Experts now recognize that violence that takes place outside of work influences what happens at work, whether that be for safety, emotional wellness or productivity reasons, research shows. It is no longer a personal issue. If employees are your greatest asset and employee well-being is of the highest priority, it’s time to ask your employees how you can help them with this epidemic of violence and assault. One example of this taking place on the local level is WorkStrong, Women Helping Women.” -Forbes