British Columbia

New B.C. law to provide 5 days paid leave for workers facing sexual or domestic violence

The NDP's proposed legislation has unanimous support from all parties and is being broadly welcomed by business groups.

Proposed legislation has unanimous support from all parties and is broadly welcomed by business groups

B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains outlines new legislation that provides five days paid leave for workers facing domestic violence or sexual abuse. (Tanya Fletcher / CBC)

The B.C. NDP has put forward a bill that requires employers to provide five days of paid leave for victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence.

Proposed changes to the Employment Standards Act were introduced in the legislature Tuesday and build on 2019 amendments that allowed 10 days unpaid job-protected leave for workers.

"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 Labour Minister Harry Bains, who tabled the legislation. 

All employees would be eligible — full-time and part-time staff — and the province says no police reports or other documentation would be required.

"While there are many issues that our parties disagree on, domestic and sexual violence is not one of them- Opposition Leader Andrew Wilkinson

Bains said the definition of domestic violence isn't just physical but also emotional, adding any workers suffering abuse should be given the time to find a new home or school for their children without fear of losing their jobs.

According to the B.C. government, 82 per cent of workers who experience domestic violence said it interfered with their work performance, and about two-thirds of those affected are women. 

"These stats are disturbing and show us that sexual and domestic violence affects us all," said Mitzi Dean, B.C.'s parliamentary secretary for gender equity.

Mitzi Dean, B.C.'s parliamentary secretary for gender equity, says women and girls are seven times more likely to face domestic or sexual violence. (Tanya Fletcher / CBC)

"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," she said, noting women and girls are seven times more likely to face violence, while Indigenous women are 3½ times more likely.  

Sweeping political and industry support

The legislation was shaped by feedback from more than 6,000 British Columbians, as well as input from employers, employees and business organizations.

"Our membership has expressed concern about affordability, but we all agree that we, as a part of our wider community, have a responsibility to help people escape abuse in any way we can," said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the B.C. Restaurant & Food Services Association. 

The move is also receiving unanimous support from the other political parties in the province.

"While there are many issues that our parties disagree on, domestic and sexual violence is not one of them," said Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson. "Every member of this legislature understands the seriousness of domestic and sexual violence, and the importance of providing proper supports for victims."

Interim Green Party Leader Adam Olsen also welcomed the legislation, calling it critically important for those who need it.

"The immediate aftermath of an assault is horrific enough as it is," he said in a statement. "Survivors should not have to also worry about losing their job or income while they attend to their medical, legal or safety needs."

B.C. follows in the footsteps of other jurisdictions across the country and around the world. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick also offer five days of paid leave.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Provincial Affairs Reporter covering the B.C. Legislature. Anything political: tanya.fletcher@cbc.ca

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