Living Wage Submission on Domestic and Sexual Violence Leave

The BC government recently consulted the public about implementing paid leave for those experiencing domestic or sexual violence. The Living Wage for Families Campaign submitted four recommendations advocating for paid leave that is protected and accessible. 

Domestic and sexual violence is not an individual problem – it is a societal issue that affects us all. According to recent data from Statistics Canada, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) represented 30% of violent crimes reported to police across the country in 2017. This is also a gendered and racialized issue, as women, particularly Indigenous women and rural women, face higher rates of Intimate Partner Violence. 

In responding to this issue, BC is behind the curve. Some jurisdictions like New Zealand and the Philippines provide ten days of paid leave in cases of domestic and sexual violence, and other provinces in Canada including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick offer five days of paid leave along with varying amount of additional unpaid leave, up to ten days in Manitoba. British Columbia currently provides zero days of paid leave and ten days of unpaid leave.

Having paid leave is about more than taking time off in a difficult period. As noted by the Canadian Labour Congress, “[w]hen victims of violence know their job and income are secure, they may feel more confident about seeking help. Paid leave means that people have access to time off to do things like go to court, talk with legal advisors, meet with domestic violence counsellors, find childcare or do other tasks that may need to take place during working hours.” These issues are likely exacerbated for those in low-wage jobs who may struggle to find services that suit their works schedules, to have discretionary income available for emergencies, or to be able to take unpaid time away from a job.

In this consultation, the Living Wage for Families Campaign gave four recommendations:

  1. Protect at least ten days of paid leave under the Employment Standards Act for workers who are experiencing domestic or sexual violence, to be taken consecutively or intermittently, in order to give survivors sufficient time to seek the supports they need. Retain the existing provision of up to 15 weeks additional unpaid leave.

  2. Ensure that this leave is standalone, not combined with other types of leave (e.g. folded into an existing type of leave such as personal or sick time). 

  3. Remove the burden of proof that survivors must provide to their employer. The existing language around proof is too ambiguous and leaves too much discretion to employers, and workers’ privacy and safety may be put at risk if they must divulge personal details to their employer. This is a serious and deeply personal matter, and requiring proof not only assumes that workers are dishonest but also adds an additional, unnecessary barrier before these survivors can seek supports.

  4. Ensure there is no minimum length of service requirement before a worker can claim domestic and sexual violence leave, recognizing that the ability to access services and supports should not be dependent upon time spent with a given employer. 

Read our full submission here.