COLUMN: B.C. needs workplace legislation for domestic violence victims

All levels of government should do more to help put an end to violence and abuse.

Domestic violence affects the physical and mental well-being of thousands of British Columbians. It has even led to tragic deaths. We need to introduce legislation which can prevent this violence and help victims.

The provincial government should introduce a law which allows victims of domestic abuse to take leave from work and seek help. Victims of domestic violence should not have to face the further stress and anxiety of fearing that they might lose their job if they try to get out of an abusive relationship and seek safety.

According to B.C.’s #SaySomething campaign, “on average, over 32 abused women seek shelter in B.C. each day. Every 6 days in Canada a woman is killed by her intimate partner.”

All levels of government should do more to address this and put an end to domestic violence and abuse.

Recently introduced legislation in Manitoba allows victims to take 10 days of leave from work, which includes five paid days and also a “continuous leave period of up to 17 weeks.” This is intended to help people seek assistance, such as health care and counselling, victim services support, relocation and “legal or law enforcement” help.

Proposed legislation in Ontario would help victims of domestic violence if either employees or their children are victims. This would include up to 10 days of paid leave. It would permit domestic violence victims to adjust their work environment, including their place of work and their work schedule.

The legislation also includes a component about educating employees and administrators about workplace violence. Recent cases of sexual assaults and harassment in organizations underscores the need for such measures.

Government decisions in different policy areas are often linked. Hence, poverty-reduction strategies that allow for economic independence may also help empower individuals to leave abusive relationships.

Introducing paid leave legislation in B.C. would ensure that victims of domestic violence are able to access a support network. It would also help bring down barriers which are preventing victims from accessing support.

While legislation alone will not solve all the issues relating to domestic violence, it would certainly help. Victims should not have to choose between putting food on the table or escaping an abusive relationship that threatens their safety. Education about violence in the workforce and how to address it should also be brought forward, so the workplace is a safe environment for all.

The workplace is where one spends a significant amount of time and employees contribute greatly to companies. They deserve support when they are facing distress in their life.

Laws to help victims of domestic violence in other jurisdictions can help guide the discussion and conversation in this province on creating a law. Commitment from the provincial government is needed so this initiative can begin. The government should engage in further research and consultation with domestic violence victims, victim services organizations, businesses and law enforcement to craft effective legislation.

Greater awareness and education about domestic violence in society will help to address the underlying issues which give rise to such violence in the first place. In addition, laws should be introduced which help victims who are suffering. Governments, businesses, not-for-profit organizations and society as a whole must work together to put an end to domestic violence.

Japreet Lehal is a Simon Fraser University graduate pursing a law degree. He writes regularly for The Leader.

 

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