The Government of Ontario has introduced new, job-protected paid leave of absence when a worker or their child experiences or is threatened with domestic or sexual violence. As of January 1, 2018, a worker has the right to take up to 17 weeks off without the fear of losing their job. Ten days of that leave may be taken a day at a time for things like medical appointments, and an employee may also take up to 15 weeks intermittently for reasons that require more time, such as making moving arrangements. The first five days of leave in each calendar year would be paid, the rest would be unpaid and job-protected.
The Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave is additional to any other program designed to grant paid leave for other reasons. According to the government’s web page: employees who have been employed by their employer for at least 13 consecutive weeks are entitled to domestic or sexual violence leave if the employee, or the employee’s child, has experienced or been threatened with domestic or sexual violence, and the leave is taken for any of the following purposes:
To seek medical attention for the employee or the child of the employee because of a physical or psychological injury or disability caused by the domestic or sexual violence.
To access services from a victim services organization for the employee or the child of the employee.
To have psychological or other professional counselling for the employee or the child of the employee.
To move temporarily or permanently.
To seek legal or law enforcement assistance, including making a police report or getting ready for or participating in a family court, civil or criminal trial related to or resulting from the domestic or sexual violence.
“Child” means a child, step-child, child under legal guardianship or foster child who is under 18 years of age.
According to Kevin Flynn, Ontario Minister of Labour: “When domestic or sexual violence occurs, the last thing victims and their families need is to worry about whether they can take time off work. When someone or their child is a victim of such a tragic episode, they must have the time to get the help they need.”
For domestic or sexual violence leave pay, an employee is generally entitled to be paid what they would have earned had they been at work and not taken the leave. If the employee is paid fully or partly by a performance-related method (like commission only, commission plus salary, commission plus hourly rate, or piece work) then they must be paid the greater of their hourly rate, or the applicable minimum wage for the time at work they missed because they were on personal emergency leave.
In commenting on the new policy, the Minister of the Status of Women, Harinder Malhi, gave a clear summary of the need for it: “No one should have to choose between a paycheck and their safety. Providing paid domestic or sexual violence leave gives survivors peace of mind while they access the supports available to them.”
For more information on the Domestic or sexual violence leave program, visit the Ontario Government website at: www.ontario.ca/document/your-guide-employment-standards-act-0/domestic-or-sexual-violence-leave.