Ontario's Proposed Domestic or Sexual Violence Workplace Leave
Ontario's plan for Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs proposes to create a new unpaid job-protected leave of absence under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) where an employee or an employee's child has experienced or been threatened with domestic or sexual violence.
Who can take the leave?
An employee who has been employed for 13 consecutive weeks with the same employer would be entitled to this leave. The employer is not required to pay for this leave.
What reasons may the leave be taken for?
The leave may be taken to:
- Seek medical attention for the employee or child for physical or psychological injury or disability caused by the domestic or sexual violence
- Obtain services from a victim services organization for the employee or child
- Obtain psychological or other professional counselling for the employee or child
- Relocate temporarily or permanently
- Seek legal or law enforcement assistance, including preparing for or participating in a legal proceeding related to the domestic or sexual violence
How many days can be taken off?
Employees would have the right to take up to 17 weeks off per calendar year without the fear of losing their job:
- The 10 days can be taken a day (or part of a day) at a time (e.g., to attend medical appointments). The employer can deem a partial day of leave to be a full day of leave.
- The employee can also take up to 15 weeks (or partial weeks) of leave for reasons that require more time (e.g., to make moving arrangements). The 15 weeks do not have to be taken continuously. The employer can deem a partial week of leave to be a full week of leave.
The employee would be required to advise the employer that they are taking leave in advance or as soon as possible. The employer may require the employee to provide evidence that is reasonable in the circumstances of the employee's entitlement.
The Domestic or Sexual Violence Leave would be in addition to any entitlement to leave under Family Medical Leave, Family Caregiver leave and Critically Ill Child Care Leave, Child Death Leave, Crime-Related Child Disappearance Leave, and Personal Emergency Leave under the ESA.
Other initiatives to help end gender-based violence
The proposed Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 builds on Ontario's work to end violence based on gender, including:
- Releasing the It's Never Okay action plan, and passing the Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act, 2016 to improve support for survivors who come forward about abuse, and to make workplaces and campuses safer and more responsive to complaints about sexual violence.
- Investing over $1.1 million a year over three years in Hospital-based Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centres to enhance specialized counselling services and community outreach support for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
- Investing an additional $1.75 million per year in funding for the province's 42 sexual assault centres to enhance services for survivors of sexual violence.
- Launching the Independent Legal Advice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Pilot Program, which provides survivors of sexual assault up to four hours of free legal advice, regardless of how much time has passed since the incident.
- Developing in collaboration with Indigenous partners, the $100 million Walking Together: Ontario's Long-Term Strategy to End Violence Against Indigenous Women, which outlines actions to prevent violence against Indigenous women and reduce its impact on youth, families and communities.
- Engaging with agencies and people with lived experience on an updated domestic violence action plan.
- Training more than 50,000 frontline workers to recognize violence against women and provide effective support to survivors.