Workers in British Columbia affected by domestic or sexual violence will be eligible for up to five days of paid leave a year under legislation introduced Tuesday that amends the province’s Employment Standards Act.
The legislation would also give the parents of children harmed by domestic or sexual violence the same paid leave.
Labour Minister Harry Bains said the amended legislation builds on changes passed last year that provided up to 10 days of unpaid, job-protected leave from work for those affected by such violence.
The legislation, if passed, means five of those 10 leave days will be paid.
“We know that when people have support and job security they’re much more likely to be able to leave an abusive environment,” Bains told a news conference.
Bains said granting workers paid leave gives them “the time they need to rebuild their lives,” and it allows them to attend medical, counselling or other appointments as well as the chance to look for a new home or school for their children.
People facing domestic or sexual violence need support to help them gain control of their lives, said Bains, adding B.C. now joins most other provinces where paid leave of between two and five days is already provided.
“Today, we are bringing B.C. in line with most other jurisdictions in Canada,” he said. “More importantly we’re doing the right thing, providing the support people need in difficult times.”
Opposition Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson said the five days of paid leave is a large step forward to help people rebuild their lives.
“While there are many issues that our parties disagree on, domestic and sexual violence is not one of them,” Wilkinson said in a statement. “Every member of this legislature understands the seriousness of domestic and sexual violence and the importance of providing proper supports for victims.”
Interim Green Leader Adam Olsen said the legislation is critically import to people who need support.
“The immediate aftermath of an assault is horrific enough as it is,” Olsen said in a news release. “Survivors should not have to also worry about losing their job or income while they attend to their medical, legal, or safety needs.”
Bains said the legislation was developed after the government received feedback from almost 6,300 people, as well as submissions from employers, business associations and employee organizations last fall. The consultations found most people and organizations supported some paid leave for people affected by domestic or sexual violence, he said.
Mitzi Dean, B.C.’s parliamentary secretary for gender equity, said about two-thirds of people who have faced domestic violence in Canada are women, and 87 per cent of sexual assaults reported to police are reported by women. The numbers are much higher for Indigenous women and LGBTQ people, she said.
Dean said 26 per cent of the sexual assault victims are children aged 13 years and younger.
“Three out of five children in every classroom has lived with domestic violence,” she said.
Dean, who has worked with families and individuals harmed by domestic or sexual violence, said the paid leave will provide extra support for people who are facing danger and looking for a way out.
“The leave is there for people when they need it and it will be at a really critical time in their life and in their personal safety,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2020. Story by Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press