Bill 177, Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act

Report to: Chair and members of the Board of Health

Meeting Date: September 7, 2016

Report Number: BH.01.SEP0716.R16

Prepared by: Melissa Horan, Health Promotion Specialist, Health Analytics and
                        Jennifer MacLeod, Manager, Health Analytics

Approved by: Andrea Roberts, Director, Family Health

Submitted by: Dr. Nicola J. Mercer, MD, MBA, MPH, FRCPC
                           Medical Officer of Health & CEO

 

Recommendations

It is recommended that Board of Health:

1. Receive this report for information.

Key Points

  • Bill 177 - Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act – proposes amendments to the Employment Standards Act and Occupational Health and Safety Act.
  • The proposed amendments will require all employers to provide employees experiencing domestic violence and sexual violence with workplace accommodations and paid and extended leave.1 The legislation also mandates that management and employees receive information and instruction about domestic and sexual violence in the workplace.1
  • Domestic and sexual violence is an important public health issue that aligns with the Ontario Public Health Reproductive and Child Health Standards.2,3
  • Employment is essential for someone to leave a violent relationship.4 Provisions in Bill 177 can help provide the steady income necessary for an employee, and their children, to leave an abusive situation while maintaining a basic standard of living.4 This support may prevent or lessen the adverse developmental consequences experienced by children when they are exposed to domestic or sexual violence.
  • Bill 177 is still in early stages of legislation. If public consultations regarding the proposed Act are held in the future, Public Health should consider providing input.

Discussion

Newly Proposed Legislation: Bill 177

On March 8, 2016, Bill 177 was introduced at Queen’s Park by MPP Peggy Sattler (London West). Bill 177 amends the Employment Standards Act to require employers to provide accommodations if an employee, or the employee’s child, experienced domestic violence or sexual violence.1 Accommodations in Bill 177 include providing:

  • up to ten days of paid leave per calendar year and additional unpaid leave to: seek medical attention; obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, rape crisis centre, or other social services program or community agency; obtain counselling; temporarily or permanently relocate to make future violence from their abuser less likely; and, to meet with police or lawyers, or participate in legal proceedings,
  • an alternate work location, and
  • alternate or fewer work hours.1

Bill 177 also proposes changes to the Occupational Health and Safety Act to ensure employers provide all staff with information and training about domestic and sexual violence in the workplace.1

On March 10, 2016, Bill 177 was referred by the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy.1 If this legislation is adopted, Ontario will become the second province in Canada to have such a law. A similar Act was passed by the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba on March 16, 2016.5

If this legislation is passed, these recommendations will impact all employers, including Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH). Similar to many other recently legislated provincial requirements, Bill 177 will require all businesses to analyze and potentially alter their current practices to comply with the new law, if it is adopted.

Sexual and Domestic Violence in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph

Domestic and sexual violence is a serious public health issue. Half of all women in Canada have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and every six days, a woman is killed by her partner or ex-partner.6 Domestic violence is experienced across all social and economic gradients.6 Immediate and long term health, social and economic consequences result from domestic and sexual violence.6

Local statistics that compare domestic and sexual violence trends over time across Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph are unavailable. However, in 2014, the Guelph Police reported 1306 service calls for domestic disputes in their annual report.7 The 2013 Wellington County OPP business plan shows that 424 domestic occurrences were reported in 2012.8 Statistics were not available for the Dufferin County OPP, but their 2014-2016 Action Plan lists domestic violence as one of their crime priorities.9

In 2014-2015, Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis supported 1086 women and 67 children through their various programs, while their crisis line handled 2528 calls.10 In 2015-2016, the crisis line at Family Transition Place, in Dufferin County, handled 3664 calls.11 Emergency shelter was provided to 98 women and 59 children, while 361 women received women abuse counselling.11

While the data presented above provides a snapshot of domestic and sexual violence in Wellington, Dufferin, and Guelph, it is important to note that according to research, sexual and domestic violence are among the most underreported crimes in Canada.12

Sexual and Domestic Violence and the Ontario Public Health Standards

Legislation that supports victims of sexual and domestic violence aligns with the Ontario Public Health Standards. The goal of the Ontario Public Health Standard for Reproductive Health is to enable individuals and families to achieve optimal preconception health, experience a healthy pregnancy, have the healthiest newborn(s) possible, and be prepared for parenthood; domestic and sexual violence precludes the achievement of this goal.2 Negative consequences for children who are exposed to domestic and/or sexual violence can occur from the moment of conception, if the abuse leads to an unwanted pregnancy.13 One of the leading causes of death during pregnancy is abuse.13 If the pregnant mother and fetus survive the violence, babies born to mothers that have experienced sexual or domestic violence have a higher risk of preterm birth and low birth weight which are associated with long-term health consequences.2,13 Abuse does not cease after the birth of a baby. Typically, after the baby is born, abuse increases.13

Exposure to domestic or sexual violence is an adverse childhood experience that impacts the developing brain and the child’s ability to learn, often leading to risky health behaviours, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death.6,14 In Canada, approximately 362,000 children witness or experience family violence annually.6 The unhealthy family dynamic experienced by these children undermines Public Health’s goal of enabling all children to attain and sustain optimal health and developmental potential, as per the Ontario Child Health Standards.3 Exposure to domestic and sexual violence as a child perpetuates the cycle of abuse, as child victims of family violence are more likely to become victims or perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence in adulthood.6

WDGPH currently supports women and children experiencing domestic and sexual violence in a number of our programs including those targeting priority populations. Public Health Nurses in all clinical areas are aware of and trained to assess for domestic violence. Nurses and family visitors in the HBHC program work with families where a history of or current violence is often an issue. WDGPH staff have a liaison function with women’s shelters in both the City and the County and participate in the Action Committee on domestic and sexual violence.

WDGPH supports our employees who may experience domestic and sexual violence through specialized employee benefits, as well as unique and robust support programs. Some of the specialized employee benefits that the Agency provides to all employees is 24/7 access to our employee assistance program (which includes counselling as well as referral services for domestic and sexual violence). Eligible employees are also provided with eight paid sick days as well as one paid emergency leave day. Employees may also be eligible for an unpaid leave of absence that are made available to them in a confidential and respectful manner.

WDGPH also supports our employees through a variety of different and specialized programs. WDGPH has a psychological health and safety committee, offers robust violence and harassment training, and trains all employees on non-violent crisis intervention which provides a practical hands-on course on defense and release techniques. WDGPH also provides individuals work accommodation on a case-by-case basis to those who may/have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual violence with may include the opportunity to transfer to a different office, to alter their working hours and also to alter their work assignment. In addition, WDGPH also has installed video surveillance systems and implemented secure access to control access to owned buildings and the employees therein.

An Employment Perspective on Domestic and Sexual Violence in the Workplace

Annually, an estimated $77.9 million is lost from Canadian employers, due to domestic and sexual violence.15 These losses are experienced directly, through increased absenteeism, tardiness and reduced productivity, and indirectly through: replacement, recruitment and training costs when victims are injured or dismissed for poor performance; higher company health expenses; and liability costs if someone at the workplace is harmed.15 The impacts of domestic violence in the workplace are not solely on the victims. A recent Canadian survey found that over a third of respondents that have experienced domestic violence reported discussing the violence with somebody at work.16 Additionally, co-workers of employees experiencing domestic violence are negatively impacted through increased workloads, stress, calls or visits from their co-worker’s abuser, and other potential safety risks.17

Bill 177 was proposed as a supportive policy to address the significant cost of domestic and sexual violence in the workplace and to help employees deal with the immediate impacts of violence on themselves or their children and to potentially leave an abusive home environment.4 Proposed legislation, such as Bill 177, can help provide the steady income necessary for an employee to leave an abusive situation while maintaining a basic standard of living for themselves and any children involved.4
However, in the current draft of Bill 177, the direct financial impact on employers to provide up to 10 days of paid leave per year, based on the size and nature of each workplace has not been quantified. Since the proposed legislation sits with the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, amendments still may be made to the Bill. If consultation opportunities arise in the future, Public Health may want to consider providing input, as, in principle, supportive policies that address domestic violence and sexual assault align with the Ontario Public Health Standards.

Conclusion

Bill 177 requires all employers to provide employees experiencing domestic and sexual violence with workplace accommodations and paid and unpaid extended leave. The proposed Act will also require management and employees to receive information and instruction about domestic and sexual violence in the workplace.1 Bill 177 has positive implications for the workplace and for population health.

From an employment lens, providing paid leave, alternate work hours and locations, and education on sexual and domestic violence for employees that are experiencing abuse may mitigate the risk of an abuser entering the workplace and threatening or harming the employee being abused, their co-workers, or clients of the agency.15 The financial impact of this new legislation on business, especially small businesses has not been quantified and this will need to be considered by the Standing Committee. While some workplaces may already have policies to support employees experiencing violence, the amendments proposed in Bill 177 will ensure universal access to important safety measures.15

From a public health lens, this policy aligns with the Ontario Public Health Reproductive and Child Health Standards.2,3 Bill 177 acknowledges that people experiencing domestic and sexual violence are in a position of significant physical, mental, emotional, and financial hardship.6 Importantly, children exposed to violence experience serious long-term developmental health consequences.6,14

In principle, supportive policies that address domestic violence and sexual assault align with the Ontario Public Health Standards. Bill 177 is in the early stages of legislation. Amendments may be made to the Bill by the Standing Committee on Justice Policy. If public consultation opportunities arise in the future, Public Health should consider providing input.

Ontario Public Health Standards

Reproductive Health Program Standard

Goal: To enable individuals and families to achieve optimal preconception health, experience a healthy pregnancy, have the healthiest newborn(s) possible, and be prepared for parenthood.
The board of health shall work with community partners, using a comprehensive health promotion approach, to influence the development and implementation of healthy policies and the creation or enhancement of supportive environments to address preconception health; healthy pregnancies; and preparation for parenting.

Child Health Program Standard

Goal: To enable all children to attain and sustain optimal health and developmental potential.
The board of health shall work with community partners, using a comprehensive health promotion approach, to influence the development and implementation of healthy policies and the creation or enhancement of supportive environments to address healthy family dynamics.

WDGPH Strategic Directions

Strategic Directions
DIRECTION APPLIES? (YES/NO)
Health Equity: We will provide programs and services that integrate health equity principles to reduce or eliminate health differences between population groups.      YES
Organizational Capacity: We will improve our capacity to effectively deliver public health programs and services.       YES
Service Centred Approach: We are committed to providing excellent service to anyone interacting with Public Health.       NO
Building Healthy Communities: We will work with communities to support the health and well-being of everyone.      YES

Health Equity

Domestic violence is experienced across all social and economic gradients.6 However, determinants of health, including gender; healthy child development; social support networks, income and social status; and employment/working conditions; all increase the risk of violence.6 Regarding gender, domestic and sexual violence is experienced by men.6 However, this issue disproportionately impacts women, as their risk of victimization from severe forms of abuse, injuries, death, and multiple victimizations is much higher than for men.6 Young women are especially at risk for sexual and domestic violence.6 Sixty-six percent of all female victims of sexual assault are under twenty-four years of age, and 11% are under the age of eleven.6 Exposure to domestic or sexual violence is an adverse childhood experience that impacts the developing brain and the child’s ability to learn, often leading to risky health behaviours, chronic health conditions, low life potential, and early death.6,14 Exposure to domestic and sexual violence as a child perpetuates the cycle of abuse, as child victims of family violence are more likely to become victims or perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence in adulthood.6

Research has shown that experiencing domestic violence seriously impacts employment among women.16 Exposure to domestic violence often causes women to have disrupted work histories which results in lower personal incomes, having to change jobs often, and having to work in casual and part-time roles more often than women that have not experienced violence.16 Additionally, women who leave a partner to raise children on their own are five times more likely to live in poverty than if they had stayed in the relationship.6 The financial security that comes with steady employment can play a key factor in allowing women, and their children, to escape a violent and isolating home situation.4,16 Legislation like Bill 177 can help to provide the job security so crucial for women to escape domestic and sexual violence along with their children, to help start to break the cycle of abuse.4

Appendices

None

References

1. Bill 177, Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act, 2016. [Internet] 2016, ON. [cited 2016 July 20]. Available from: http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&Intranet=&Bil…

2. Ontario. Ministry of Health Promotion. Reproductive Health Guidance Document. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; 2010.

3. Ontario. Ministry of Health Promotion. Child Health Guidance Document. Toronto, ON: Queen’s Printer for Ontario; 2010.

4. Manitoba Federation of Labour. Submission to the Standing Committee on Justice Re: Bill 8: The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act (Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence, Leave for Serious Injury or Illness and Extension of Compassionate Care Leave [Internet]. 2016 February 18. [cited 2016 July 21]. Available from: http://mfl.ca/files/DV%20Leave%20-%20Bill%208%20Submission%20Feb%2018%20…

5. Bill 8, The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act (Leave for Victims of Domestic Violence, Leave for Serious Injury or Illness and Extension of Compassionate Care Leave). [Internet] 2015, MB. [cited 2016 July 20]. Available from: https://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/40-5/b008e.php

6. Canadian Women’s Foundation. Fact Sheet: Moving Women Out of Violence. [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2016 July 20]. Available from: http://www.canadianwomen.org/sites/canadianwomen.org/files//FactSheet-St…

7. Guelph Police Services. Guelph Police Services Annual Report 2014 [Internet]. 2014. [cited 2016 July 21]. Available from: http://www.guelphpolice.ca/en/resourcesGeneral/2014_Guelph_Police_Servic…

8. Ontario Provincial Police. Wellington County Detachment. 2013 Business Plan [Internet]. 2013. [cited 2016 July 21]. Available from: http://www.wellington.ca/en/resources/wellington_county_detachment_plan_…

9. Ontario Provincial Police. Dufferin County Detachment. Dufferin 2014-2016 Action Plan [Internet]. 2016. [cited 2016 July 21]. Available from: https://www.opp.ca/tms/entrydata.php?fnc=3&_id=56fa794a8f94ac753a924a83

10. Guelph-Wellington Women In Crisis. 2014-2015 Annual Report [Internet]. 2015. [cited 2016 July 21]. Available from: http://www.gwwomenincrisis.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/GW-WIC_AnnualR…

11. Family Transition Place. Annual Report 2015/16 [Internet] 2016. [cited 2016 July 21]. Available from: http://familytransitionplace.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Annual-Report…

12. Morton M, Bonham L, Bader D, Horan M, Crann S. The Guelph-Wellington Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence First Response Protocol Evaluation Research: Relationships Are the Foundation [Internet]. 2014. [cited 2016 July 21]. Available from: https://atrium.lib.uoguelph.ca/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10214/8231/SADV_Pr…

13. Best Start Resource Centre. Abuse in Pregnancy: Information and Resources for the Prenatal Educator [Internet]. 2015. [cited 2016 Jan 20]. Available from: http://www.beststart.org/resources/anti-violence/pdf/bs_abuse_lr_f.pdf

14. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Injury Prevention & Control: Division of Violence Prevention: About Adverse Childhood Experiences [Internet]. 2016. [cited 2016 July 21]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about_ace.html

15. Canada. Department of Justice. An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Spousal Violence in Canada, 2009 [Internet]. 2009. [cited 2016 July 21]. Available from: http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/fv-vf/rr12_7/rr12_7.pdf

16. Canadian Labour Congress, Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women and Children. Can Work be Safe When Home Isn’t? Initial Findings of a Pan-Canadian Survey on Domestic Violence and the Workplace [Internet]. 2014. [cited 2016 July 21] Available from: http://canadianlabour.ca/sites/default/files/media/dvwork_survey_report_…

17. Canadian Labour Congress. How does domestic violence impact people at work? [Internet]. 2015. [cited 2016 July 21]. Available from: http://canadianlabour.ca/how-does-domestic-violence-impact-people-work