Abuse victims to get paid leave
Law will allow survivors of domestic violence 5 days with salary, another 5 unpaid
Victims of domestic violence will be allowed five paid days off work and a further five unpaid days as part of a revamp of provincial labour legislation, the Star has learned.
Despite initially proposing 10 days, as well as up to a further 15 weeks, all unpaid, the government has changed course and is now proposing that salary be continued for some of it.
“This amendment is the direct result of what we heard from advocates during the consultation process for Bill 148,” Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn said.
“When domestic or sexual violence occurs, the last thing people and their families need to worry about is whether they will be able to take time off work. This amendment gives them that time, as well as the financial support they need.”
In September, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath proposed a private member’s bill that would provide 10 paid days off, with the province covering the cost.
Under the Liberal plan, employers would be responsible for pay over those five days, and sources say the government is negotiating with the federal government to have some portion of the15 weeks off covered by Employment Insurance. The amendments were prompted after hearing from advocates who said leave is needed so that women can meet with police, lawyers, arrange and attend counselling or seek medical care for themselves or their children.
As in other jurisdictions with similar leave provisions, employers will be able to request reasonable proof of what the time off was used for.
The province will also introduce guidelines to protect confidentiality in the workplace.
“No one should ever have to choose between a paycheque and their safety,” said Indira Naidoo-Harris, the province’s minister of the status of women.
“The reality is that there are too many barriers to leaving an abusive relationship, including taking time off work. This amendment is an important step forward. It assists people facing these difficult circumstances.”
Last year, NDP MPP Peggy Sattler (London West), with the support of 54 unions in Ontario, advocated for paid time off because of the impact of domestic violence, with some studies finding about 10 per cent of victims end up losing their jobs because of it.
The unions, all members of the Ontario Federation of Labour, pledged to push for paid leave and better workplace supports in all upcoming contract talks.
And at that time, Melissa Corbeil spoke of her experience leaving her husband following years of abuse. She said her Kitchener employer allowed her to take time off and make it up later, so she could seek support and help for herself and her two young daughters.
Sattler, who also proposed a private member’s bill, noted the deaths of two women in southwestern Ontario — Lori Dupont and Theresa Vince — both killed at their workplace. Dupont, a nurse, was murdered by a doctor, her ex-partner at a Windsor hospital. Vince was shot by her boss, who had been harassing her at her Chatham workplace.
Manitoba already has legislation providing for five days off, as well as unpaid leave. In Australia, 10 days of paid leave are provided, with workers taking an average of one to three.
Horwath has said the time off will “protect survivors.”