Nfld. & Labrador

Domestic violence leave policy brought in at St. John's Status of Women Council

St. John’s Status of Women Council now allows three paid leave days for accessing services related to domestic abuse.

Council wants to set example for other employers, and will also help others follow suit

Jenny Wright, the executive director of the St. John's Status of Women Council, researched and implemented a policy for paid leave days for domestic abuse victims.

A women's advocacy group in St. John's has implemented a new policy for employees dealing with domestic abuse, and is hoping this will lead the way for others to follow suit.

The St. John's Status of Women Council has introduced three paid leave days to their employment policy for workers to be able to access support services related to domestic abuse.

Jenny Wright, executive director of the council, which employs about 20 staff, says they're willing to help others implement a similar policy, if asked.

There's a lot of stigma around domestic violence and people often keep it quiet for many, many years.- Jenny Wright 

"We are more than happy to share our document, more than happy to work with any business, any community organization to adapt it to help them with training and how it works on a policy level," she said.

The leave can be used incrementally as needed or all at once, Wright said, and will allow people to access various needs, including legal, housing, medical, child care or other supportive services.

The second part of the policy is safety protocols for the workplace that protect the safety of both the employee experiencing domestic violence, as well as others.

"Working with employees to provide flexible hours, training for staff on how to know the signs of domestic violence and address them, assisting them with screening their calls, a buddy system to ensure safety coming to and from their vehicle," Wright said.

Getting rid of stigma

The policy is designed to allow an environment for victims to come forward, without stigma, to work towards living free without violence.

"There's a lot of stigma around domestic violence and people often keep it quiet for many, many years," said Wright.

"Domestic violence leave policies are a very clear statement."

Domestic violence costs employers around $77 million, according to Jenny Wright.

According to Wright, domestic violence costs Canada about $7 billion.

"The vast majority of those costs is for services such as long court cases, legal costs, health care," she said.

"But just over $77 million of that is cost to employers and that is because of absenteeism, low productivity or having to rehire and retrain someone."

Paving the way

Australia has had domestic violence policies since last year, and Wright looked to theirs as a model.

Wright said the council worked with Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour, the Canadian Labour Congress and Western University to help create its policy.

Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are currently amending provincial legislation to identify domestic violence as a safety issue in the workplace.

Wright is hopeful this will clear the way for more employers to consider a similar policy.

"It really is new charted territory," said Wright. "I'm not aware of that many organizations or businesses that have one in our province."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alyson Samson is a journalist working with the CBC in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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