Liberals move to give survivors of domestic violence paid leave

August 20, 2018

The Liberal government is moving soon on its plan to give federally-regulated workers paid time off to deal with the trauma and turmoil of domestic violence.

Consultations with stakeholders, employers and unions will begin this fall on the proposed benefit, which will allow survivors 10 days off — five of them paid. It's meant to give people time to leave their abusive partners, deal with police, get medical treatment or seek legal advice.

About 900,000 employees in federally regulated private sector workplaces — such as banks, marine shipping, air and rail transportation and telecommunications — will be eligible for the new federal benefit.

Changes to the Canada Labour Code require a legislative and regulatory process that could take two years, but Labour Minister Patty Hajdu's office said the government wants to move quickly.

Barb MacQuarrie, community director of Western University's Centre for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children, said studies have shown that violence at home has a major impact on productivity and security in the workplace. Financial barriers and the fear of losing a job can trap victims in abusive situations.

"It's not that workplaces want to keep people locked in abusive relationships," she said. "But inadvertently, by not giving them the time they need to take care of the myriad ... legal issues, finding housing, child support and dealing with the health care issues that can arise from abusive relationships ... they can be keeping them stuck."

MacQuarrie said she hopes the legislation also will help end the stigma around domestic violence, leading to more open dialogue, better public education and collaboration between various groups and governments.

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