Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn was in Hamilton Thursday to highlight a section of the proposed Fair Workplace legislation that would allow victims of domestic or sexual abuse to take time off work without fear of losing their jobs.
"The last thing victims and their families need to worry about is whether they can take time off" to deal with such "tremendously difficult circumstances," Flynn said in a news conference at the Hamilton YWCA.
The leave, part of the Liberal government's amendments introduced in August to Bill 148 — the proposed Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs Act — is a direct result of public feedback, Flynn said.
If the amendment passes, it would make Ontario the second province to adopt such a leave, he said.
In Manitoba, the Domestic Violence and Stalking Act — which includes sexual assault — went into effect on June 1, 2016. It gives job protection, with pay for up to five days, to victims of domestic violence.
In Ontario, the domestic or sexual violence leave would be unpaid, but Flynn said the province would work with the federal government to try to make it, or parts of it, qualify as paid leave.
"We believe that those people who experience domestic or sexual violence simply shouldn't have to worry about how they are going to pay the rent or buy groceries or all the necessities of life that most of us just take for granted."
While Manitoba spells out the terms of leave under employment standards, Flynn said some of the Ontario regulations would still need to be worked out.
The leave would allow up to 17 weeks off, with 10 days that can be taken one day at a time for things like medical appointments, or up to 15 weeks intermittently for things like moving.
Lia Grimanis, a survivor of sexual and physical abuse, spoke after Flynn about "how dramatically our lives can come to a screeching halt" when victims experience such violence.
Grimanis, now CEO of Up With Women, said this was "an important proposal to ensure women are protected" that she believes will eventually lead to increased performance at work.
Mina Amrith of SEIU Healthcare, representing 55,000 unionized workers, said that as a survivor herself, "today's announcement is very close to my heart. And I know I am not alone. Half of all women will be physically or sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetime."
Statistics Canada on Tuesday released figures showing 117,238 sexual assaults were reported by police from 2009 to 2014, but noted that sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes in Canada.
Flynn also addressed Bill 148 in general, saying the proposed minimum wage increases will help thousands of women — 45,000 of them in Hamilton — who will then spend it in the local economy, buying things such as groceries, diapers and shoes for kids.
If Bill 148 passes this fall, domestic violence leave would take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
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