May get to de­clare build­ings pot-free

Min­is­ter hears new do­mes­tic vi­o­lence ini­tia­tive could see fewer women hired

Regina Leader-Post - - FRONT PAGE - JEN­NIFER ACK­ER­MAN jack­er­[email protected]

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.

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