Domestic violence leave: a good first step, but can people afford to take it?

Halifax (03 April 2018) — On March 29, the Liberal McNeil government tabled legislation, Bill No. 107, that will amend the Labour Standards Code to include the right to unpaid leave if a worker or a worker's child/dependent is a victim of domestic violence. 

NSGEU/NUPGE has been pressing for paid domestic violence leave 

"Although we applaud this as a first step, we think that few Nova Scotians working for minimum or close-to-minimum wage, will be able to financially take advantage of unpaid leave. They simply will not be able to afford it," said a statement by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees' Union (NSGEU/NUPGE) on its website.

Over the last few years, thye NSGEU/NUPGE has been including provisions for leave for victims of domestic/intimate partner violence in its negotiations with employers and with its own staff. For the most part, the negotiated language is an agreement to develop a policy before the expiry of the collective agreement — a start.  Where possible, the NSGEU/NUPGE is negotiating a combination of paid leave as well as unpaid leave in order to support workers financially as they heal.

NDP introduced similar bill but government rejected it

On March 1, the NDP introduced amendments to the Labour Standards Code that gave the victim the right to both paid and unpaid leave. The paid leave would have been provided by the employer and would have given the victim the space and financial support they need to recover. Unfortunately, government did not support this bill.

Labi Kousoulis, Labour and Advanced Education Minister, speaking at the briefing on the bill, said consultation with stakeholders will continue and a major topic will be the issue of paid leave. There also be some questions about the bill during the Law Amendments Committee hearing. The NSGEU/NUPGE supports this legislation as a first step to addressing the effects of domestic violence in our communities and workplaces and the union will continue to lobby for the legislation to include paid leave.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE