Please accept this submission on Bill 107, amending the Labour Standards Code, Respecting Leaves of Absence.
Unifor represents 315,000 members across Canada, 14,000 of which work and live in Nova Scotia. As the Atlantic Regional Director, I connect with members in various sectors of the economy, working for employers large and small. I've supported the work that my union has done to negotiate programs and policies dealing with domestic and intimate partner violence. I am proud to say that we are a leader in workplace supports.
The components of our program include a trained workplace Women's Advocate, protection from discipline where performance is affected by violence, and paid domestic violence leave. We have been successful in many workplaces across the country, including at Bell Aliant, but we know that this applies only to the minority of workers in unionized workplaces.
We welcome the government's action in moving to amend the Labour Standards Code to better support victims of domestic violence. Putting such a leave in legislation that covers a broad spectrum of workers is a positive move. There are positive elements to this proposed
legislation – it’s wide inclusion in its definition of intimate partner recognizes that violence affects relationships of all types; its positive approach to the sensitive nature of information in these circumstances and the government's comments that they want to ensure the verification process is not burdensome and does not cause stress for victims seeking leave. However, the intent of the legislation is undermined by not making the leave a paid leave.
The government heard from stakeholders about the need to address the complex situations of domestic violence without the added stress and fear of losing their jobs. They also heard about the importance of economic security to those in this situation. The statistics show that these are overwhelmingly women. And we also know that women are overrepresented in the lowest paying jobs in our province. To require women to self-fund this leave is almost to erase the availability of this leave.
To justify leaving domestic violence leave unpaid, the government relies on the fact that other leaves under the Labour Standards Code are unpaid. This misses the fact that in Manitoba, Ontario and the federal jurisdiction, all other leaves are unpaid as well. This didn't stop those governments from bringing in paid leave. Nova Scotia should follow their lead.
Canada is not the first to put a paid domestic violence leave in place. It is the law nationally in the Philippines and it is in place in several states in the US including: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and the District of Columbia.
It has also been in place for some time covering over 2 million workers in Australia. In a follow up study, data showed that it is not an onerous burden on employers. Employees, on average, took the equivalent of two or three days off to deal with legal and medical concerns, find housing or take steps to improve their safety.
We urge the government to put true supports into this legislation and make this leave a paid leave.