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, on Tuesday. “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.

“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 and 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.”

Improving fairness in British Columbia’s workplaces is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said that the “announcement of five paid days leave from work for victims of domestic and sexual violence is a big step forward in helping people start to rebuild their lives and work on recovery.”

He added: “While there are many issues that our parities disagree on, domestic and sexual violence is not one of them. Every member of this Legislature understands the seriousness of domestic and sexual violence and the importance of providing proper supports for victims.”

“Domestic and sexual violence is an issue that disproportionately affects women, who are four times more likely than men to be victims of partner violence in B.C.,” said Stephanie Cadieux, Surrey South MLA and Co-Critic for Finance. “We are glad to see legislation introduced that will allow those impacted to get the help they need without worrying about losing their jobs. I am also encouraged to see the inclusion of victims of sexual violence in the bill, a point that I raised when similar legislation was brought forward last year.”

“I know that organizations across B.C. are working hard to help end domestic and sexual violence, but we know that more support is needed. We need to work together to provide those supports for survivors,” said Wilkinson. “We must continue to make positive change where possible, and I believe that this bill introduced today is a step towards making this province safer for all British Columbians.”