Saskatchewan

Sask. victims of domestic or sexual violence to receive five days of paid leave

The Saskatchewan government has amended a law to allow survivors of domestic or sexual violence five paid days of leave from work and five unpaid days.

Government amends law from 10 unpaid days to five paid and five unpaid days

Saskatchewan will allow five days of paid leave for victims of interpersonal or sexual violence. (Getty Images)

The Saskatchewan government has amended a law to allow survivors of domestic or sexual violence five paid days of leave from work and five unpaid days. 

In December 2017, the government introduced a law allowing survivors 10 unpaid days of leave.

A year later, the NDP tabled its own bill to allow for five paid days. It argued that when faced with lost wages, victims may be less inclined to take time away from work even in a life-threatening situation.

Saskatchewan has some of the highest rates of domestic and sexual violence in Canada.

"This is everybody's problem and everybody's responsibility," said Tina Beaudry-Mellor, Minister Responsible for the Status of Women.

She said the new law will specifically help women in low-income jobs.

"If they were working in higher income jobs they would have the ability to leave," Beaudry-Mellor said. "So this makes a difference to women in those situations, but most importantly it makes a difference to the children that are also in those situations."

The province will allow an employee to take time off work if they are a victim, or their child is a victim, or if they are a caregiver to someone who is a victim, in order to:

  • Seek medical attention.
  • Obtain services from a victims' services organization.
  • Obtain psychological or other professional services.
  • Relocate, either temporarily or permanently.
  • Seek legal or law enforcement assistance and attend court appearances.

The new rules require employees to have worked a minimum of 13 weeks and allows employers to ask for proof of services received. Employers must keep the information it obtains confidential.

Regina YWCA CEO Melissa Coomber-Bendtsen said the law empowers women by having some financial barriers removed.

She said there is an entire group of women that will not be able to pay their rent if they lose their job or go on unpaid leave.

"It potentially means women will choose to leave, where they may not have had this not been passed," Coomber-Bendtsen said. "To have that kind of employment security and to be paid for that is really important."

NDP MLA Carla Beck said this issue affects the families and the lives of members on both sides of the assembly, which is why it received unanimous support.

"This is an issue that needs to be addressed in the province," Beck said. "This will impact lives. This will save lives."

The new law becomes official this month.

Law changes aimed to help victims of violence

The paid leave amendment is the latest in a series of legislative initiatives by the government aimed at helping those victimized by domestic and sexual violence.

In April 2017, the provincial government made legislative amendments to allow a tenant to end a fixed-term agreement within 28 days if they or their family members are experiencing abuse by another resident or former resident of the home.

In Nov. 2018,  Minister of Justice and Attorney General Don Morgan introduced the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol (Clare's Law) Act.

Saskatchewan is the first Canadian province to introduce the legislation, which allows police to warn partners of someone's violent or abusive past.

The purpose of the law is to inform people who may not know they are in an intimate relationship with someone who has a history of violence.

If passed, the law would allow police forces to disclose a person's criminal history to that person's partner in some cases.

Death review response paper released

On Monday, the government also released its response to the Domestic Violence Death Review (DVDR) Report.

In May 2018, a panel of 13 experts released a report after taking an in-depth look at six cases of domestic homicide from 2005 to 2014. The panel made 19 broad-based recommendations in the areas of education, assessment and intervention. 

For example, one of the recommendations is "develop a first responder team in all communities across the province with expertise in domestic violence."

The province accepted all of the recommendations.

The government's response outlines the progress on the recommendations and the funding commitments made thus far.

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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