Provincially-regulated employers in Ontario must accommodate employees who request time off for causes connected to domestic or sexual violence. This is protected by the Employment Standards Act (ESA) under the description for domestic or sexual violence leave.
The effects of domestic or sexual violence can follow workers from home to the workplace, whether that be emotionally or physically. When employees face domestic violence at home, employers often see a decline in job performance, presence, commitment, and self-esteem. The purpose of providing domestic or sexual violence leave is to show care for employees by addressing the situation with sensitivity and privacy.
4 Facts About Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave
As of January 1, 2018, domestic and sexual violence leave is part of the minimum employment standards in Ontario.
- Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave is a Protected Leave of Absence
Domestic or sexual violence leave is a job-protected leave of absence for employees who experience or feel threatened by such. This applies to both employees and the children of employees. The term “child” refers to those under 18 years of age.
- Employees are Entitled to Several Benefits Under the Law
Employees must work for an employer for a minimum of 13 consecutive weeks to be entitled to domestic or sexual violence leave. An employee who is the abuser for domestic or sexual violence does not have the right to take this leave.
Employees who have experienced domestic or sexual violence have the right to:
- Take time off for medical care;
- Find psychological or other professional counselling;
- Use victim services;
- Relocate temporarily or permanently; or
- Get legal or law enforcement help and aid.
- Employees May Take Up to 10 Days Off
Domestic or sexual violence leave offers up to 10 individual days of time off and up to 15 weeks of protected time off in a calendar year.
- Some Leave Days are Paid
The first five days of leave taken in a calendar year are paid, and the remaining time off is unpaid.
In addition to giving a job-protected leave of absence, employers can also offer a variety of things to make sure employees feel supported, including:
- Developing a policy specifically for the issue of domestic violence
- Giving employees flexibility to handle the issue
- Establishing employee privacy and confidentiality
Experts suggest that employers in the U.S., where domestic and sexual violence is becoming a hot-button issue, consider applying similar rules even if the business has no locations in Canada. These rules will likely apply to remote workers as well, which means businesses around the world need to be aware of what the law requires.
Employers are advised to seek professional advice if an employee asks for domestic or sexual violence leave and are unsure how to proceed.
The domestic or sexual violence leave regulation adds to Ontario’s efforts to end gender-based violence. The government also plans to invest $1.75 million per year in funding for the 42 sexual assault centers in the province. The province will also invest $1.1 million per year for community outreach support for survivors of abuse and to improve specialized counseling services.