On September 6, 2019, the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce launched a domestic violence workplace policy. The development of the policy was the result of collaboration between the Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CADV) and our Crime and Justice Committee.
According to a finding of the Women’s Health Survey, undertaken by the UN Development Programme in 2017, one in every three women in intimate partnerships has experienced some form of violence in their relationships. In Trinidad and Tobago, both girls and boys suffer physical abuse.
The costs of domestic violence are highest for those who experience it. They endure lives of terror, tension, and pain. Many do so in silence. They may not seek help because they think that what they are experiencing is not serious enough.
They also fear the consequences of disclosure, including the anticipation of further shame or fear of humiliation. They fear that they would be blamed or not believed. And also they are terrified for their wellbeing because they cannot depend on others, including the police, to protect them.
Silence is also the response of communities. Too many do not speak out, even when we know or suspect that someone is a perpetrator of domestic violence or is experiencing it. And in these silences, lives are constrained and distorted and in some cases, lost.
A statement dated April 27, 2021 from Donna Cox, Minister of Social Development and Family Services on the – Incidence of violent crimes against women and girls notes that, “Data from the Crime and Problem Analysis branch of the TTPS (Trinidad and Tobago Police Service) extracted from an August 2020 Report of the TT Central Registry on Domestic Violence cited 7,594 reports related to domestic violence between 2014 to 2019.” She further stated that “more than 75 per cent of these reports were from women.”
Most adults spend the majority of their waking hours in the workplace. These are places where they can and should benefit from empathetic listening and assisted problem-solving if they are affected by domestic violence. We know that if workplaces support those experiencing domestic violence, there is potential to achieve protection, prevention and even increased productivity. If employees know they will be supported by their employer, they are more likely to seek help to break the cycle.
The policy gives information on domestic violence and guidance on how to respond when there are signs that a work colleague is experiencing abuse.
In implementing the policy, human resource and workplace colleagues will be better equipped to discuss a range of practical measures that can be effected, including safety plans, time off to go to court and/or the police, and referrals to social services like counselling.
With appropriate protections, workplaces and employers can enhance victims’ safety and help connect them with appropriate support services that lead them towards safer environments, thus enabling them to retain and develop their skills in the workplace.
Apart from the benefits to the employer (including reductions in lost days’ work and low morale), security of employment enables those affected by domestic violence to maintain stability, in this way assisting them to find a pathway out of violence and to successfully re-build their lives.
Companies are encouraged to endorse, adopt and implement the policy, which is available at
https://chamber.org.tt/domestic-violence-in-the-workplace-policy, and incorporate this in their employee assistance programmes.
Not only as employers, but as institutions that provide good and services, companies have unique and continuous opportunities to use their influence and channels to promote healthy and respectful relationships between women and men.
The TT Chamber thanks Roberta Clarke, president of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, for contributing this article, which was updated from the original version published in 2019.