The BC government has passed new legislation that gives five days of paid leave to employees impacted by domestic or sexual violence.
The bill also extends to parents of a child or dependent impacted by this kind of violence, according to a release from the province.
Public consultations found that “three to five children in every classroom are also exposed to domestic violence.”
“People faced with domestic and sexual violence should not have to lose pay when dealing with the aftermath,” said Mitzi Dean, Parliamentary Secretary for Gender Equity.
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“The changes introduced today help support people so they can attend medical appointments and make the necessary changes to ensure they and their children are safe.”
This bill builds on the unpaid, job-protected leave introduced in Spring 2019 that entitles those facing domestic or sexual violence to take up to 10 non-consecutive days and 15 consecutive weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.
For those looking to leave an abusive situation or rebuild their lives, job protection and paid leave can make this possible without losing income from work.
According to the province, women from diverse backgrounds, and specifically Indigenous women and girls, face greater vulnerability to gender-based violence, with Indigenous women 3.5 times more likely to face this type of violence.
Public consultation found that “82% of working people who have experienced domestic violence said it interfered with work performance.”
Without job protection, this can leave victims who are already vulnerable and in a compromised position with limited options to seek help because of the financial strain.
Prior to the introduction of the bill, British Columbia and Alberta were the only two Canadian provinces that do not require employers to offer paid leave for people facing domestic or sexual violence.
“People facing domestic or sexual violence need far more supports to help them gain control of their lives than what was previously available in our province,” said BC Minister of Labour Harry Bains.
“We consulted broadly, we listened to what people said and we’re making another important step to add to existing supports that will make a real difference in a person’s life when they need it the most.”
According to a release from the province, the legislation was shaped by feedback from over 6,000 British Columbians as well as input from stakeholder consultation sessions and written submissions from employers, business associations, and employee organizations during Fall 2019.
“The consultation found that most people, both employers and employees, as well as organizations, support some paid leave for people affected by domestic or sexual violence.”
Last month, BC Liberal Party leader Andrew Wilkinson was criticized and later apologized for likening domestic violence to a “tough marriage” while the bill was being discussed in an interview.
Today, Wilkinson affirmed his support for the legislation on Twitter.
Domestic & sexual violence have no place in our society. It’s up to us to work together to support victims in any way we can. This is why I’m supporting today’s legislation to provide 5 days of paid leave for victims of domestic & sexual violence. #bcpoli
— Andrew Wilkinson (@Wilkinson4BC) March 3, 2020
Tracy Porteous, Executive Director, Ending Violence Association of British Columbia, says that domestic and sexual violence can be an extremely traumatizing experience.
“Although the road ahead may be the most difficult one that survivors will encounter, it can make a huge difference having informed and respectful people and processes in place that provide those harmed by these crimes the time to begin to heal.”
“In my 38 years working in this field, I have known too many survivors who have lost their jobs simply because they needed a few days away from work to deal with the aftermath of violence. Bravo to the Province for putting this support in place.”