As you may be aware, December 6th marked Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence against Women and Girls.
In fact, studies suggest that 54% of domestic and sexual violence victims have confronted abuse at or in near to their place of business, placing significant stressors on performance, attendance, and overall physical and mental health. Naturally, employers also feel the effects of the domestic violence dilemma.
Statistics Canada has said that incidents of domestic violence cost Canadian employers very close to $78 million annually. A new bill aimed at addressing these issues is currently progressing through the Ontario legislature.
If passed, Bill 26 (the Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act, 2016), would amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 [the “ESA“], allowing employees to take up to 10 days of paid leave per year if they, or their children, are victims of domestic or sexual violence. Although this pay may well be capped at 10 days, employees would be entitled to leaves of a “reasonable length” to seek medical attention, psychological counselling, community services, and/or legal assistance. Employees would also be entitled to take time off work to relocate, where the purpose of such relocation is to reduce the chance of future violence.
Employers would also be required to offer impacted employees with reasonable accommodation, such as reduced work hours, schedule modifications, or changes to the place of work. As is the standard elsewhere in the ESA, employers would only be required to accommodate up to the point of undue hardship.
Bill 26 also proposes amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The proposed changes could require that managers, supervisors, and workers take part in mandatory training on the warning signs, impacts, and risks of domestic and sexual violence in the workplace.
On October 20, 2016, Bill 26 passed second reading with the unanimous support of the Ontario legislature. It has now been referred to the Standing Committee on the Legislative Assembly.