Unions celebrate Ontario government’s support for paid domestic leave

The Canadian Labour Congress is celebrating news that Ontario labour legislation is being amended to provide victims of domestic and sexual violence five paid days off work.

“Unions have been advocating for this for years because we know that designated, paid domestic violence leave means it is easier for survivors to keep their jobs and escape violent and abusive relationships. And sometimes, that can mean the difference between life and death,” said CLC President Hassan Yussuff.

“Dedicated paid leave means people experiencing violence can do what’s needed to keep themselves, their children and family members safe, such as going to counselling, opening a new bank account, or meeting with lawyers or police – all things that have to happen during the standard workday,” he added.

The Ontario legislation, part of Bill 148, makes the province the second in Canada to offer workers five days of paid domestic violence leave. Manitoba was the first to introduce legislation giving all workers the right to five paid days, plus an additional ten unpaid and if necessary, up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave.

The federal government has yet to follow suit, proposing only unpaid leave in its budget implementation bill, C-63. Yussuff appeared before the finance committee on November 9 to urge the government to amend its proposal so that it offers paid domestic violence leave instead.

In 2014 the CLC partnered with the University of Western Ontario on a groundbreaking national study that found one in three workers has experienced domestic violence, and the violence often follows people to work, putting safety and jobs at risk.

Since then, unions across the country have been working to negotiate domestic violence supports into collective agreements, train union representatives to recognize and respond to domestic violence at work, and change legislation to support non-union workers who face domestic violence.