The economic recovery in Ontario must ensure women’s safety

August 11, 2021
Lieran Docherty

The COVID19 pandemic may be novel, but the connection between violence and women’s economic security is not. As governments start to develop economic recovery plans, it is critical that women’s safety is priority.

Women’s economic security and safety are connected. Without economic resources, women are unable to flee violent situations and face a greater risk of exploitation and victimization. Violence also has long term impacts on women’s economic well-being.  Women with a history of domestic violence change jobs more often and are more likely to be in casual and part-time jobs than women without experiences of violence.

Survivors also experience financial hardship after fleeing violence such as debt, poor credit scores, and ongoing legal costs. These financial pressures make it difficult for survivors to rebuild their financial stability.

With a reported increase in gender-based violence during the COVID-19 pandemic and the significant economic toll on women – like disproportionate jobs losses and an increase in care responsibilities – rebuilding the economy cannot be at the cost of women’s safety.

Domestic violence in the workplace

Domestic violence often spills over into or near the workplace and can impact an employees’ concentration, attendance and performance at work. With an estimated one in three workers reported to have ever experienced domestic violence in Canada,[i] it is essential that employers understand their legislative requirements as well as how they can recognize domestic violence among employees and provide the necessary support.

Sexual violence and harassment in the workplace

While violence is present in all workplaces, women are more likely to experience sexual harassment. Some women are disproportionately affected because of their employment status, the nature of their work or their working conditions. Sexual violence and harassment is particularly common in male-dominated workplaces. As governments start to look at removing barriers for women to fields in which they are underrepresented, it is critical that these fields of work are safe.

Survivors re-entering the workforce

Survivors face barriers to maintaining employment or entering the workforce because of the health impacts of abuse as well as control tactics of abusers. Some survivors face barriers due to having large gaps in their careers because of their abusive relationship. With a focus on achieving the shortest route to work, as typically found in employment and income support programs, survivors are often forced to accept precarious work. There is an opportunity to ensure women’s full access to decent work but this cannot be done without investments into childcare, housing and workforce development initiatives. 

This is an opportunity to design things differently – to listen to survivors to understand the economic and safety barriers that they face and to co-create solutions.

This is an opportunity to rebuild things differently – to establish services, policies and social conditions that promote women’s economic security, independence and safety.

Check out our submission to Ontario’s Task Force on Women and the Economy

[i] Wathen, C.N., MacGregor, J.C.D., and MacQuarrie, B.J. (2014) Can Work be Safe, When Home Isn’t? Initial Findings of a Pan-Canadian Survey on Domestic Violence and the Workplace.

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