The Manitoba Employment Standards Code was recently amended to give victims of domestic violence job-protected leave from work to deal with issues arising from their abuse. The legislation provides that such individuals are eligible for two categories of annual leave: (i) 10 days, which may be taken intermittently or continuously, 5 of which are to be paid by the employer and (ii) up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave, which can only be taken continuously. To be eligible for this leave the employee must have been employed for at least 90 days and must be a victim of domestic abuse within the meaning of the Manitoba Domestic Violence and Stalking Act, which defines the concept as follows:
(a) an intentional, reckless or threatened act or omission that causes bodily harm or property damage;
(b) an intentional, reckless or threatened act or omission that causes a reasonable fear of bodily harm or property damage;
(c) conduct that reasonably, in all circumstances, constitutes psychological or emotional abuse;
(d) forced confinement;
(e) sexual abuse.
Such acts must be perpetrated by someone in a familial or domestic relationship with the victim to be classified as domestic violence. Manitoba employees who are experiencing domestic violence can use the leave to see medical attention for themselves or their children for an injury caused by the domestic violence, to obtain services from a victim services organization, to obtain psychological or other professional counselling, to temporarily or permanently relocate or to seek legal or law enforcement assistance, including preparing for or participating in any civil or criminal legal proceeding related to or resulting from the domestic violence. Manitoba employers are entitled to “reasonable verification” of the necessity of the leave. There is no guidance in the legislation as to what might constitute reasonable verification but at a minimum, employers would be entitled to request medical notes verifying that their employee or his or her children received treatment and would also be entitled to proof of Court proceedings related to the domestic violence. It will likely be more difficult to obtain proof that the employee is searching for new housing or accessing social services related to the domestic violence.
Ontario has prepared similar legislation, which received a second reading earlier this week. If passed, the Ontario legislation would provide victims of domestic violence with 10 days of annual paid leave and an unspecified period of unpaid leave. The legislation would also require employers to provide employees who are threatened with domestic violence with an alternative place of work or reduced hours of work. The Ontario Bill has yet to become law and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy for further study. We will monitor the Bill’s progress through the legislature and provide updates on its progress.