Employers should be aware of proposed changes which would provide paid and unpaid leaves to employees relating to domestic and/or sexual violence and impose new training requirements for supervisors and workers.

Bill 157, the Domestic and Sexual Violence Protection Act, 2017 (the “Proposed Act”) was brought forward for its first reading on September 26, 2017. The Proposed Act, if passed, would amend the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (“ESA”) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1990.

Employment Standards Act

The Proposed Act would give paid leave to employees who have been the victim of domestic or sexual violence or the threat of violence. It would also provide paid leave to employees whose children were the victims of this violence or threat of violence.

The Proposed Act would provide employees up to 10 days paid leave and 15 weeks unpaid leave.

The leave under the Proposed Act is available for the following purposes:

  • To seek medical attention for the employee or the child (for physical or psychological effects);
  • To obtain the services of victim services organizations;
  • To obtain counselling;
  • To relocate temporarily or permanently;
  • To seek legal or law enforcement assistance including participating in civil or criminal proceedings; and
  • For any other purpose that may be prescribed.

In its current drafting, the Ontario Government would pay for these days of leave.

To qualify, employees must have been continuously employed for 13 weeks with the employer. They must also advise their employers in writing of their intent to take this leave.

Employers have the right to request evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances in order to assess the employee’s entitlement to this leave. Unfortunately, this provides little guidance to employers as to how, when and what to ask for should such a circumstance arise.

Occupational Health and Safety Act

The Proposed Act would also require employers to provide mandatory training and information on domestic and sexual violence to all supervisors and workers.

Conclusion

The Proposed Act is currently in its second reading and was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy. In debate it has had overwhelming support with no one yet opposing it along its path.

This legislation comes at a time when the ESA and the Labour Relations Act are being substantially reviewed and Bill 148 is making its way through the legislative process. Please see our article on these changes.

These changes will not have the force of law until approved by the Legislature. Miller Thomson will continue to monitor the Proposed Act.