Corporate Awareness of Domestic Violence

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Nine in ten corporate leaders (91 percent) believe that domestic violence affects both the private lives and the working lives of their employees, according to a survey conducted for Liz Claiborne, Inc. as part of the company's domestic violence awareness campaign. The survey finds that America's corporate leaders have grown more aware of domestic violence as a national problem, and as a problem that affects their employees. But despite the increase in awareness, just 12 percent of corporate leaders say their corporations should play a major role in addressing domestic violence.

"America's corporate leaders understand the prevalence of domestic violence. They understand the bottom-line impact of domestic violence. In fact, more than half personally know people in their companies who have been affected by domestic violence. And yet they still think it is someone else's responsibility to deal with it," said Liz Claiborne Chairman and CEO Paul R. Charron. "That needs to change."

The survey provides a benchmark for a similar survey of corporate leaders conducted for Liz Claiborne in 1994. It is based on telephone interviews with 100 senior executives in Fortune 1,000 companies across the United States. The interviews were conducted by Roper ASW, a market research and public opinion polling firm. The survey is a part of Liz Claiborne's Women Work Program, which raises public awareness about domestic violence and funds for domestic violence prevention organizations.

Domestic Violence in the Workplace

The survey illustrates that corporate leaders' awareness of domestic violence has grown over the last eight years. Sixty-six percent of people surveyed said domestic violence is a major problem in today's society, compared with 57 percent in 1994. More corporate leaders also are "significantly more" aware that domestic violence affects people in their companies and in their personal lives, according to the survey. Fifty-six percent of corporate leaders today say they are aware of employees within their organizations who are affected by domestic violence, compared with 40 percent in 1994. Forty-five percent say someone close to them has been involved in domestic violence; only 24 percent of corporate leaders answered yes to the same question in 1994.

Corporate leaders also are aware of the impact domestic violence has on the workplace. Sixty percent say that domestic violence has had a "harmful effect" on the psychological well-being of their own employees. Nearly half (48 percent) of corporate leaders say that the productivity of their workers has been "negatively affected as a result of domestic violence," according to the survey. Corporate leaders say that domestic violence has had a "harmful effect" on the physical safety of their own employees (52 percent), on employee attendance (42 percent) and on employee turnover (29 percent).

Domestic violence has a direct financial impact on companies as well. Half of the corporate leaders surveyed (50 percent) report that domestic violence has had a "harmful effect" on their own organization's insurance and medical costs. Thirty-two percent say their company's bottom line performance "has been damaged" by domestic violence. And 68 percent say a company's financial performance would benefit if domestic violence were addressed among its employees, finds the survey.

Corporate Response to Domestic Violence

Despite the increase in corporate leaders' awareness of domestic violence and its impact on the workplace, the survey finds that many corporate leaders still see domestic violence as a social rather than a business problem. While 85 percent of people surveyed think corporations are responsible for the general well-being of their employees and 67 percent say domestic violence is serious enough to warrant their attention, just 12 percent think that corporations should play a major role in addressing the issue. Asked who should "play a major role in addressing the issue of domestic violence," 97 percent of corporate leaders said family, 89 percent said social service organizations, 87 percent said the police, 70 percent said community organizations, 60 percent said the medical establishment and 40 percent said the federal government.

The survey finds, however, that corporations do have programs in place to address domestic violence. Seventy-eight percent of corporate leaders surveyed say their company offers domestic violence counseling or assistance to its employees. This percentage was 72 in 1994. But more companies offer programs for educational assistance (97 percent), paid medical insurance (97 percent), substance abuse treatment (94 percent) and diversity training or workshops (80 percent) than in the past.

Of the corporate leaders at companies that have domestic violence programs in place, 87 percent say their company offers counseling services over the phone, 86 percent say their company provides referrals to domestic violence prevention or victim service organizations, and 80 percent say their company has employee benefits that cover the cost of "in-depth help related to domestic violence." But the survey finds that only 41 percent say their company has programs in place to provide employees with information about domestic violence through brochures, videos, lectures or seminars.

When asked why many companies do not have programs to address domestic violence, corporate leaders offered a variety of answers. Sixty-eight percent said that companies do not realize the impact domestic violence has on employee and company performance, 68 percent also agreed that companies do not believe a domestic violence program "will positively impact the bottom line." Other reasons include: companies believe domestic violence is a family problem and not a corporate problem (67 percent), companies believe domestic violence should be addressed by law enforcement and not by them (67 percent), the cost of domestic violence is too great for companies (29 percent) and companies that don't do anything about domestic violence just don't care (14 percent).
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