October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and we’re highlighting the important role employers can play to ensure all of North Carolina’s children and families feel safe and free from violence.
We spoke with Rebecca Swofford, Director of Prevention at the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCCADV), about the workplace policies employers can offer to prevent violence and support employees and their families during a crisis. The North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence leads the state’s movement to end domestic violence and to enhance work with survivors through collaborations, innovative trainings, prevention, technical assistance, state policy development and legal advocacy.
5 Workplace Policies that Prevent Violence for Children and Families
Paid Parental Leave
Paid parental leave increases the likelihood that parents and caregivers will remain in the workforce, which leads to more economic stability for their families – a key violence prevention strategy. Paid parental leave also improves parent-child connectedness, which has been shown to prevent violence. Paid maternity leave lowers maternal depression and stress, thereby lowering the risk for violent behavior and child abuse, and paid paternity leave reduces work-family conflict for fathers.
Sick and Safe Leave
Sick and safe leave allows workers to care for themselves and their children while in crisis situations, when children and parent health and well-being can be severely impacted.
Children who experience domestic violence face a host of short- and long-term health issues, and safe leave removes concerns about losing a job while trying to leave a violent spouse or partner – essential given that between 21 percent and 60 percent of violence survivors lose their jobs for reasons stemming from the abuse. Safe leave can be used for a myriad of things related to experiencing domestic violence, such as seeking safe housing, accessing court-related remedies, or seeking resources from local community agencies.
Combining sick and safe leave is a strategy that allows for survivors to not necessarily have to disclose the exact reason for taking leave, which provides additional confidentiality in connection to an issue that is still very widely stigmatized, Rebecca says. “This can prevent the retraumatization of needing to regularly disclose or prove one’s trauma experience, which is also very important in NC specifically because there are no specific worker protections to prevent someone from being fired simply for being a survivor of domestic violence,” she says.
Employee Assistance Programs
Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) help employees navigate life challenges, adverse events, stress, and other issues that affect mental or emotional well-being. EAPs lower stress and alcohol and substance abuse and directly support employees experiencing violence within their family.
Pregnant Workers Accommodations and Support for Breastfeeding Workers
Accommodations for pregnant workers, such as time off to go to prenatal care appointments or more frequent breaks, and support for breastfeeding workers improve family economic security by encouraging people to stay in the workforce while pregnant and breastfeeding.
“Research shows that domestic violence tends to escalate during pregnancy, so pregnant worker accommodations and support for breastfeeding workers may also provide critical support to someone who is actively experiencing violence,” Rebecca says.
- Prevent Violence NC offers data and information about policies and programs that can lower violence at the individual, interpersonal, community and societal levels.
- Trauma-Informed Organizations NC offers tools and resources for organizations to analyze their own policies and practices using a trauma-informed approach. Trauma-informed organizations commit to “understanding the impacts of trauma, actively striving to address secondary trauma, and mitigating trauma not only in their service delivery, but also for their employees, interns, and volunteers,” according to the organizational website.
- Prevent Child Abuse NC has a resource hub focused on protective factors, or conditions that “serve as buffers, helping parents find resources, support, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress,” according to PCANC’s website. Research shows that protective factors help to lower child abuse and neglect.