Photo: What Can Employers Do

What Can Employers Do

For more information on how you can create a safe and inclusive workplace for survivors of IPV-TBI, please visit these resources:

What can Employers Do to Help?

Employment is a crucial aspect of a survivor’s health and well-being and has a significant impact on their quality of life.1 Having a stable job means survivors have access to basic needs, such as safe accommodations, food security, and disability supports. Employment also promotes survivors’ physical safety, improves their self-esteem and social-connectedness, and provides mental respite and a purpose in life.2 The following suggestions have been compiled from statements provided by survivors, support workers, and employers during research interviews.

A proactive approach

There are many things an employer can do to support current and prospective employees who are survivors of IPV-TBI. Many survivors are willing to talk to their employers about their safety and disability related needs but they need to feel supported to do so. It can help if the employer has clear policies and procedures already in place, with key people identified as the appropriate contact to go to. Survivors may often speak to someone they feel safe with, a co-worker or immediate manager, but if that person knows who to contact and what to do ahead of time, it can make the process of accessing supports more successful. Some workplaces take a proactive approach to support options and communication policies, providing an existing framework for employees to rely on when needed.

A flexible and supportive environment

Some survivors say that having a ‘guardian angel’ made all the difference in their success, an individual that they trusted to ask for help, someone who believed them, and offered assistance and support without taking away their autonomy and control. They talked about the value in their employer offering flexible work hours which gave them time to deal with necessary appointments, or an employer’s willingness to support their need for safe housing and access to childcare so they could continue to work and take care of their family. Some survivors discussed their employer’s openness to safety measures such as providing barriers against unwelcome phone calls or visits, escorting employees safely to and from parking areas, and monitoring public access to buildings.

Survivor Perspectives

For employers wanting to create inclusive, supportive hiring practices for survivors, there are other things that can be done. Start by creating an interview process that considers a survivor’s need for safe spaces and a calm, quiet space with minimal external distractions. Prospective employers can provide interview questions ahead of time, allowing someone to feel prepared and at their best, thereby reducing their anxiety.

The impacts of IPV outlive the relationship

Many survivors will experience the effects of IPV-TBI long after they have left their abusive partner. Seemingly unimportant, everyday things can be triggering. A person’s name, smells, or sounds, for example, can all trigger a trauma response. An employer’s willingness to accommodate a survivor’s needs whenever possible can go a long way to creating a safe workspace for everyone.


1Libeson, L., Downing, M., Ross, P., & Ponsford, J. (2020). The experience of return to work in individuals with traumatic brain injury (TBI): A qualitative study. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 30(3), 412-429. DOI: 10.1080/09602011.2018.1470987

2Rothman, E. F., Hathaway, J., Stidsen, A., de Vries, H. F. (2007). How employment helps female victims of intimate partner violence: A qualitative study. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 12(2), 135-43. Doi: 10.1037/1076-8998.12.2.136

3Scaratti, C., Leonardi, M., Sattin, D., Schiavolin, S., Willems, M., & Raggi, A. (2016). Work-related difficulties in patients with traumatic brain injury: A systematic review on predictors and associated factors. Disability and Rehabilitation, 39(9), 847-855.

4Adams, A. E., Bybee, D., Tolman, R. M., Sullivan, C. M., & Kennedy, A. C. (2013). Does job stability mediate the relationship between intimate partner violence and mental health among low-income women? American Journal of Orthhopsychiatry, 83(4), 600-608.

5Swanberg, J. E., Logan, T. K., & Macke, C. (2005). Intimate partner violence, employment, and the workplace: Consequences and future directions. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 6(4), 286-312.

6Showalter, K., & McCloskey, R. J. (2020). A qualitative study of intimate partner violence and employment instability. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1-26. DOI: 10.1177/0886260520903140

7 Matérne, M., Lundqvist, L., Strandberg, T. (2017). Opportunities and barriers for successful return to work after acquired brain injury: A patient perspective. Work, 56, 125-134.

8McRae, P., Hallab, L., Simpson, G. (2016). Navigating employment pathways and supports following brain injury in Australia: Client perspectives. The Australian Journal of Rehabilitation Counselling, 22(2), 76-92. Doi: 10.1017/jrc.2016.14