Union calls for paid leave for domestic & sexual violence

UFCW 1518 says the provincial government should mandate paid leave for workers experiencing domestic and sexual violence. The union joined the BC Federation of Labour in calling for changes to the Employment Standards Act to ensure all workers have the resources to leave a violent situation and the ability to pursue justice as well as needed supports and services without loss of pay.

“BC is one of the only provinces without this kind of paid leave protected under labour law,” explained President Kim Novak. “Women and people from other marginalized groups experience both domestic and sexual violence more than other workers. They also disproportionately experience barriers in accessing medical and legal systems where they could seek care and justice, which is why paid leave is so important.”

According to Statistics Canada, sexual assault is the only violent crime on the rise in Canada while intimate partner violence affects more women and working-aged Canadians. In Canada, in addition to providing unpaid job-protected leave, most provinces and the federal government require employers to provide paid leave for victims of domestic or sexual violence ranging from two to five days.

The provincial government held a public consultation to solicit the public’s view on paid leave through an online survey as well as written submissions. Recent changes to employment standards by the NDP provide job-protected, unpaid leave for workers who need time off to deal with the  domestic or sexual violence. Prior to that, people escaping domestic or sexual violence, recovering from it or rebuilding their lives after could not take time away from work unless their employer agreed. The province says it is committed to continuing to improve protections for workers.

In its submission, UFCW 1518 endorsed the BC Fed’s recommendations, stating that leaves of absence for domestic and sexual violence survivors should be available to all workers, regardless of length of service; paid for a minimum of 10 days, and unpaid for longer as needed; and requested in strict confidentiality to designated and trained employer representatives without burden of proof to the survivor.

Click here to read UFCW 1518’s submission.