NDP Private Members Bill on Sexual and Domestic Violence passes legislative hurdle
Yesterday MPPs voted unanimously on second reading to support Bill 177, put forward by NDP Women’s Issues Critic Peggy Sattler, MPP London West. The bill provides survivors of sexual or domestic violence with up to 10 days of paid leave to deal with the harm they experienced. The bill also requires all employers to provide workplace training on domestic and sexual violence.
“Sexual violence or domestic violence is traumatic enough without having to worry you’ll lose your job if you need to testify in court, or visit a rape crisis centre,” said Sattler. “As a mother, I want my children to grow up in a province where we take domestic violence and sexual violence seriously. As an MPP, I believe the way we do that is by listening to survivors about what they need to heal.”
Ontario’s lack of paid leave for survivors of sexual or domestic violence, and the failure of workplaces to educate their employees on domestic violence in the workplace, were common themes raised by groups and individuals testifying to the Select Committee on Sexual Violence and Harassment and during public input on the government’s Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act.
“There are already significant economic costs to employers associated with domestic violence or sexual violence – including lost productivity, absenteeism, distractedness, and increased risk of workplace accidents,” said Sattler. “Giving employees the leave they need to deal with the violence can actually reduce the financial impact on workplaces.”
Sattler’s bill would entitle survivors of sexual or domestic violence with up to 10 days of paid leave, flexible work arrangements, and additional “reasonable” unpaid leave, for the purposes of:
- seeking medical attention
- going to a victim services organization, women’s shelter, rape crisis centre, sexual assault centre, or other social services program or community agency
- seeing a psychologist or another professional counsellor
- relocating temporarily or permanently
- meeting with police or lawyers, or participating in legal proceedings
The bill has widespread support from experts. Dr. David McKeown of Toronto Public Health said, “This bill, if enacted, would promote safety in the workplace for the victim and their coworkers; reduce the burden of providing evidence when leave is necessary; prevent victims from losing their jobs when financial security is vital; help offset the costs associated with coping with or leaving an abusive partner; and afford them the time, energy and resources to focus on healing and rebuilding their lives.”
Harmy Mendoza, Executive Director of the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto (WomanACT), said, “We know women experiencing violence will be safer if their employer supports them to the best of their abilities.” And Nadine Sookermany, Executive Director of Springtide Resources, said the group “endorses the bill wholeheartedly."
“Too often Private Members Bills simply sit after passing second reading. I’m calling on the Premier to make sure this bill turns into law,” continued Sattler.