Paid leave for workers facing domestic or sexual violence
Up to five days of paid leave will be available for employees impacted by domestic or sexual violence, or parents of a child or dependent impacted by this kind of violence, thanks to new legislation.
“People faced with domestic and sexual violence should not have to lose pay when dealing with the aftermath,” said Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. “The changes introduced today help support people so they can attend medical appointments and make the necessary changes to ensure they and their children are safe.”
With up to five days of paid leave from work per year, employees will be able to attend to their needs, or the needs of their dependent children or adults, without the worry of losing income from missing work. Employees will have paid leave, allowing them to attend medical, counselling or other appointments, look for a new home or school for their children, and rebuild their lives, stated a joint March 3 Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Finance, Gender Equity Office media release.
“Domestic and sexual violence are deeply traumatizing crimes,” said Tracy Porteous, executive director, Ending Violence Association of British Columbia. “Although the road ahead may be the most difficult one that survivors will encounter, it can make a huge difference having informed and respectful people and processes in place that provide those harmed by these crimes the time to begin to heal.
“That’s where workplaces come in. In my 38 years working in this field, I have known too many survivors who have lost their jobs simply because they needed a few days away from work to deal with the aftermath of violence. Bravo to the Province for putting this support in place.”
These amendments build on improvements made to the Employment Standards Act last year that provided up to 10 days of unpaid, job-protected leave from work for those impacted by domestic or sexual violence. If passed, the new amendments will mean five of these days will be paid days.
“People facing domestic or sexual violence need far more supports to help them gain control of their lives than what was previously available in our province,” said Harry Bains, Minister of Labour. “We consulted broadly, we listened to what people said and we’re making another important step to add to existing supports that will make a real difference in a person’s life when they need it the most.”
This legislation was shaped by feedback from 6,261 British Columbians, as well as input from stakeholder consultation sessions and written submissions from employers, business associations and employee organizations during fall 2019. The consultation found that most people, both employers and employees, as well as organizations, support some paid leave for people affected by domestic or sexual violence.
“A person facing domestic or sexual violence needs and deserves any support their community can offer them,” said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO, BC Restaurant & Food Services Association. “Paid leave will make it easier, especially for people with children, to escape abusive situations. Our membership has expressed concern about affordability, but we all agree that we, as a part of our wider community, have a responsibility to help people escape abuse in any way we can.”
Currently, people facing domestic or sexual violence may take up to 10 non-consecutive days and 15 consecutive weeks (or non-consecutive with the employer’s consent) of unpaid, job-protected leave. If passed, these changes will provide up to five non-consecutive days of paid leave, five non-consecutive unpaid days and the same 15 additional unpaid weeks.
Anyone considered an employee covered by the Employment Standards Act is eligible for this leave.
British Columbia and Alberta are the only two Canadian provinces that do not require employers to offer paid leave for people facing domestic or sexual violence.
From Aug. 30 to Oct. 8, 2019, 6,261 surveys were completed and 32 written submissions were received, with 77% of survey respondents being full- or part-time employees, and four per cent were employers. Women respondents comprised 81%, men 14% and gender diverse populations five per cent. Seven per cent of respondents identified as Indigenous.
Overwhelmingly, people (employers and workers) supported paid leave of up to five days.
Further, consultation information on domestic and sexual violence showed:
- 82% of working people who have experienced domestic violence said it interfered with work performance.
- About two-thirds of those who have faced domestic violence in Canada are women.
- 87% of sexual assaults reported to police are reported by women.
- One in four (26%) of these sexual assault victims were children aged 13 years and younger.
- Indigenous women and girls are 3.5 times more likely to face violence than non-Indigenous.
- Three to five children in every classroom are exposed to domestic violence.
- LBGBTQ2S+ people are more than twice as likely to experience violence than the rest of the population.