People in British Columbia have an opportunity to voice their views on strengthening support for working people who have been subjected to domestic or sexual violence.
An online questionnaire about possible paid leave is open for public feedback until Oct. 8, 2019. Interested groups can make written submissions.
“Domestic and sexual violence disproportionately impacts women and girls, often with devastating and long-lasting effects. Our government is prioritizing the safety and economic security for women and families, and that means looking at opportunities to strengthen protections for everyone in the workplace,” said Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity. “We want to hear from a diverse range of voices, be it businesses, communities, advocacy groups and individual British Columbians, on what government can do to ensure workplace support is there for people when they need it most. I’m looking forward to exploring options on helping rebuild people’s lives after violence.”
The consultation, launched by Dean and Harry Bains, Minister of Labour, will help inform further improvements to the Employment Standards Act.
B.C. and Alberta are the only two provinces in Canada that do not offer paid leave for people who have been subjected to domestic or sexual violence. Dean and Bains will make recommendations to cabinet in fall 2019 based on the results of the consultation. This would be the next step following recent changes to employment standards that, for the first time, provide job-protected, unpaid leave for people trying to escape domestic or sexual violence.
“Domestic and sexual violence affects people of any gender, age, economic class, ethnic group, race, or religion,” said Bains. “We recognize the painful challenge for people who are trying to keep working after facing one of the most devastating, personal events imaginable. We also want to hear from employers, understand their perspective and how best to meet their business requirements when employees are facing personal crises.”
The act provides up to 10 days per calendar year of unpaid leave, as well as up to an extra 15 consecutive weeks of unpaid leave. These provisions help people take the time needed to go to medical appointments, look for a new home and restore their lives without having to worry about losing their job. Before the changes to the act, workers could take time from their job only if their employer agreed to the leave.
“Domestic and sexual violence are deeply traumatizing, violent crimes. For most people who are targeted in these ways, the road ahead may be the most difficult they will encounter,” said Tracy Porteous, executive director, Ending Violence Association of BC. “Being hurt in this way may require survivors to seek medical attention, or time to talk with police or loved ones. It is our hope that we will join together as employers, colleagues, family and friends, to provide people with the support they need.”
Kirsten Sutton, vice-president and managing director, SAP Labs Canada, said, "For those impacted by domestic and sexual violence, confiding in an employer or even a colleague can be extremely difficult. Driven by our enduring mission to improve people’s lives, and supported by people-centred legislation, SAP is striving to provide our employees the confidence and resources to get the support they need without fear of losing their job.”
Improving fairness for workers and ensuring balance in workplaces is a shared priority between government and the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
To participate in this engagement, visit:
All questions on the feedback form are voluntary and will be confidential. All responses will be compiled and analyzed as a group. Responses will not be identified by individual.
Support for people fleeing violence:
HealthLink BC: https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/te7721
A backgrounder follows.