A call to action for employers to join in implementing paid leave for workers dealing with domestic and/or sexual violence
By Olga Stachova
For more than 25 years, MOSAIC has worked with immigrants and refugees who have been impacted by gender-based violence – including sexual assault, sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, bullying and personal harassment – by offering wrap-around support and counselling services to those who are abused, and for those who use violence against their partners.
Unpaid leave for people facing domestic and/or sexual violence is already in the B.C. Employment Standards Act. However, our province lags behind others across Canada in making this a paid leave.
In October 2019, the B.C. government led a province-wide consultation on paid leave for victims of domestic and/or sexual violence. MOSAIC (Multi-lingual Orientation Service Association for Immigrant Communities) shared its expertise and made recommendations that employers need to be proactively developing policies, education and training to promote a work environment of dignity and respect for all at their workplaces.
At MOSAIC, we’re following through with education and training for staff. But additionally and significantly, we have implemented a new policy that provides paid leave of up to five days for employees dealing with domestic and/or sexual violence.
This job-protected paid leave will provide employees with support to deal with the complexities of putting their lives back together. During this time, employees may need medical assistance, seek safe housing, legal information and ensure the safety of their children.
MOSAIC has more than 350 employees and believes it should be a best practice for employers to develop policies and offer paid leaves for staff who are subjected to domestic and/or sexual assault.
Gender-based violence, which includes domestic and sexual violence, continues to tear at the fabric of our families, communities and society. Women make up 87 per cent of sexual violence victims and two-thirds of domestic violence victims.
Status of Women Canada in 2018 reported that people of colour, people with disabilities, LGBT2SQ people, Indigenous people, and other marginalized groups are more likely to experience violence and harassment than other groups.
Statistics Canada in 2018 reported that 60 per cent of Canadian women participate in the workforce. The impact of the trauma of intimate partner violence is likely to spill over into the workplace, impacting their performance and relationships.
Many women who live in abusive relationships may experience various forms of abuse, including physical, emotional, sexual and financial. Most people may wonder “Why doesn’t she just leave?” But battered women are often fearful that their children may be taken away from them; that violence and threats may escalate; that their financial situation will decline dramatically; and the relationship will end.
Newcomers to Canada may face additional fears based on the challenges of accessing supports due to language barriers and limited knowledge about systems and resources.
Employees may feel ashamed to disclose their situation and/or fear being judged. Findings from research on workplace gender-based violence shows more than 80 per cent of employees will disclose to a co-worker and 45 per cent to a supervisor.
It’s therefore critical for employers to train, support and provide tools to their staff to effectively respond to disclosures of all forms of gender-based violence. Organizational policies and practices need to be trauma-informed – where the victim is listened to, believed and supported. It’s critical that victims can access this leave without having to disclose their personal circumstances.
Everyone deserves to live free from violence and harm. It’s time for employers to become leaders and create a culture where victims of domestic and/or sexual violence feel safe and supported without the fear of losing their jobs.
During this 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence – from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10 – we invite all organizations and institutions to follow us and implement a minimum of job-protected paid-leave of five days for survivors of domestic and/or sexual violence.
— MOSAIC is an acronym for Multi-lingual Orientation Service Association for Immigrant Communities. Olga Stachova is its chief executive officer.