May get to declare buildings pot-free
Minister hears new domestic violence initiative could see fewer women hired
Sexist. Discriminatory. Troubling.
Those are the words being used after it was revealed some Saskatchewan business groups feel paid leave from work to survivors of interpersonal violence “would be a disincentive for an employer to hire a woman.”
Labour Relations and Workplace Safety Minister Don Morgan, said that is what he heard from business groups he spoke to during consultations on the Saskatchewan Employment (Interpersonal Violence Leave) Amendment Act. The act passed Wednesday grants 10 days of unpaid leave from work.
“It’s super sexist and it reveals a profound lack of understanding of the issues of intimate partner violence in general,” said Jill Arnott, executive director of the University of Regina Women’s Centre.
Arnott emphasized that it’s not just a women’s issue since males also experience interpersonal violence, and that it costs everyone money when this type of violence goes unchecked.
Lori Johb, secretary treasurer for the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour, said the sentiment is akin to not hiring a young woman because she might get pregnant. “I didn’t even imagine that there’s still that kind of thinking.”
The controversy surrounding details of the act don’t stop there. Under the act, employers can request written evidence to “verify the circumstances of the leave.”
Written evidence can be a note from a social worker, psychologist, medical practitioner, registered nurse and psychiatric nurse, police or RCMP or a person, approved by the employer, who works for a victim services organization or provides victim support.
“It presupposes that victims are in a position to seek that kind of confirmation from outside sources and that they are able to do so before they secure safety,” said Arnott. She said sometimes that’s not the case, especially when there is a lot of shame associated with being a victim of violence.
“It’s extraordinarily difficult to tell the truth about what’s happening and often the accused is intimately woven into every aspect of a victim’s life and so perhaps they can’t talk to their doctor,” she said.
Stephanie Taylor, executive director of Regina Transition House, agrees the request may be a barrier to some, but she doesn’t think it’s unreasonable.
“I think that would at least be a fairly minimal amount of women in that situation,” she said. “If they’re that isolated, they’re probably not in the workplace.”
Johb said people in other provinces with this type of legislation already in place have said the evidence needed is not extensive. “In most cases, we can expect employers to be reasonable.”
While it doesn’t solve everything, there is a general agreement the legislation is a positive step.
“It does acknowledge that women’s jobs are at risk sometimes when they need to be away from work due to intimate-partner violence,” said Taylor.
Marilyn Braun-Pollon is vicepresident of Prairie and Agri-business in Saskatchewan for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). She says there are ample types of statutory leave available to workers who need time off for personal reasons.
“At the end of the day, what our research shows is that small business owners are good employers and certainly will do the right thing for those that are going through these unfortunate situations,” said Braun-Pollon.
She said CFIB would like to know what, if any, alternatives were considered, such as extending employment insurance and says there is no evidence that businesses are not accommodating employees.