THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Index of articles surrounding the debate of the Domestic Violence Bill

  • Business implications of domestic violence
    Anthony Jongwe
    October 19, 2006

    As Zimbabwe prepares to join the rest of the world in observing 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence debate is also intense in the House of Representatives on various aspects of the Domestic Violence Bill.

    Traditionally, Domestic Violence has been largely viewed as a private matter requiring at most the attention of the state and social welfare or non-governmental organisations.

    The corporate world has been rather indifferent to the issue of Domestic Violence.

    In Zimbabwe, very few companies have taken a public stance on the matter as can be attested by the non-existence of workplace policies specifically aimed at dealing with domestic violence. Elsewhere, in a bid to save lives, stave off lawsuits and maintain productivity, some employers have decided that domestic violence should be a corporate concern. Several have created awareness and education programmes for managers and employees. This instalment attempts to contribute to the ongoing debate on the subject of domestic violence by exploring the implications of domestic violence on business. It argues that the broken bones and scarred psyches of domestic violence do not remain at home. Domestic violence takes a shocking toll in the workplace: it leads to absenteeism, increased health care costs, higher turnover and lower productivity at work. It occasionally brings violence right into the workplace.

    A 2002 survey of 100 senior executives at Fortune 1000 companies says that 5 out of 10 corporate leaders believe that domestic violence has harmful effects on productivity, physical safety, attendance and employee turnover.

    In fact, the Family Violence Prevention Fund (a US-based organisation) reports that 7.9 million workdays are lost each year because of domestic violence. This adds up to more than US$700 million in lost productivity annually. Beyond that, injuries related to domestic violence lead to health-care expenses of about US$4.1 billion, most of which is paid by employers. If you have employees who are stressed because when they go home, they will be beaten up, this affects your bottom line. It's absurd to think otherwise. It is precisely for this reason that this instalment argues that domestic violence is every employer's business.

    Employers have a corporate responsibility to maintain a safe environment at work, if not out of concern for their employees, then out of a legal responsibility to them. Many experts think the workplace can be an appropriate place to stop domestic violence in its tracks with Human Resources (HR) playing a prime moving function. HR does this through an array of focused interventions. For it to be effective in this role, HR managers must be able to read the early warning signals of Domestic Violence abuse. Some of the warning signals are: repeated physical injuries; isolation; emotional distress; despondence or depression; distraction; reaction to phone calls; and absenteeism. The following paragraph explains each of these tell-tale signs.

    An abused person may show up with a broken finger one month and a bruised arm the next, both of which she explains away. A person who is being abused might be quiet and refuse to make acquaintances or friends at work. She may always eat lunch alone and will rarely talk unless someone speaks to her first. An abused person may be found crying at work or be very anxious.

    Everyone may feel this way once in a while, but where there is a pattern there is probably a problem. The person will show no affect, have no intonation in her voice. An abused person's quality of work will vacillate for unexplained reasons. She may have a few weeks when everything is fine, and then the quality of her work may suddenly diminish for no apparent reason. If she is being beaten, she may also be receiving a lot of harassing phone calls or faxes. She becomes physically upset with each call. Domestic violence leads to frequent medical problems and fears about leaving children home alone with the abuser.

    Once HR has a clearer understanding of these early warnings, it should then be in a stronger position to come up with credible strategies as recommended in the remainder of this instalment.

    Companies need to make a decision about how they will respond to domestic violence. At the least, employers should consider domestic violence as part of their general workplace violence policies. Employers must have a policy and plan in place to prevent and respond to workplace violence. Beyond that, employers can be involved in combating domestic violence in other ways. One such way is the need for employers to build awareness by educating the workforce about domestic violence by, for example, distributing fliers about domestic violence and participating in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. Most importantly, employers should have their policies and procedures in place before they begin awareness activities. Secondly, employers should develop a domestic violence prevention programme premised on unquestionable corporate commitment that assures workers such as "We will provide a workplace free of threats, fear and violence; and we will respond to threats of potential violence". When developing the prevention programme, managers should be informed that chronic absenteeism or tardiness could indicate a domestic violence problem, and that 30 percent of women are abused for the first time when they are pregnant. Also, there should be several methods for people to seek assistance to accommodate workers' varying comfort levels. Finally, employers need to commit themselves to creating individual workplace safety plans that focus on protecting employees from batterers, helping them find shelter, give affected employees time off for court appearances and provide financial assistance to enable affected employees to move away.

    Employers have a corporate responsibility to maintain a safe environment at work, if not out of concern for their employees, then out of a legal responsibility to them.

    *Anthony Jongwe is Acting Dean of Students at the University of Zimbabwe. He can be contacted on e-mail:


    1. The Family Violence Prevention Fund (
    2. Personnel Journal, April 1995, Vol. 74, No. 4, pp. 62-72.
    3. Personnel Journal, April 1995, Vol. 74, No. 4, p. 65.

    Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.