By: Anne-Marie Langan*
People who have experienced sexual or intimate partner violence often find themselves struggling at work afterward for a variety of reasons. For one thing, they may be struggling with physical injuries and/or symptoms of trauma such as recurring memories of the event, difficulty sleeping due to nightmares or night terrors, inability to concentrate, decreased energy, irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, sadness, etc… (Kerr, 2019) Also, if they have chosen to report the incident(s) to police they may have to attend appointments and court proceedings related to the event and/or appointments related to treating their injuries and trauma symptoms during work hours. Similarly, if their children were directly targeted or witnessed the violence there may also be appointments with Child and Family Services and the children's health care providers.
Thankfully, since 2017 the Employment Standards Act stipulates that:
49.7(2) An employee who has been employed by an employer for at least 13 consecutive weeks is entitled to a leave of absence if the employee or a child of the employee experiences domestic or sexual violence, or the threat of domestic or sexual violence, and the leave of absence is taken for any of the following purposes:
1. To seek medical attention for the employee or the child of the employee in respect of a physical or psychological injury or disability caused by domestic or sexual violence.
2. To obtain services from a victim services organization for the employee or the child of the employee.
3. To obtain psychological or other professional counselling for the employee or the child of the employee.
4. To relocate temporarily or permanently.
5. To seek legal or law enforcement assistance, including preparing for or participating in any civil or criminal legal proceeding related to or resulting from domestic or sexual violence.
6. Such other purposes as may be prescribed.
The current entitlement for Domestic and Sexual Violence Leave (DSVL) in Ontario is for 10 days and 15 weeks a calendar year, the first 5 days of which are to be paid by the employer. The leave can be taken in part-day or full-day increments and the weeks can be taken consecutively or separately over 12 months (Government of Ontario, 2017). You must verbally notify your employer that you intend to take DSVL. If taking one or more days from the 10-day DSVL you should notify your employer in advance if possible, but if not, as soon as possible. If you are taking one or more weeks as part of the 15-week DSVL you must provide notice in writing to your employer as soon as possible (Government of Ontario, 2017).
If an extended leave is needed as a result of psychological or physical injury the employee can apply for Employment Insurance Sick Benefits which provide up to 26 weeks of benefits representing 55% of your earnings to a maximum of $668.00 a week (Canada, 2023). Depending on the workplace's benefit plan there may also be short and/or long-term disability benefits available to assist you financially as you are recovering from your physical and/or psychological injuries (Canada, 2023).
Your employer must ensure that your rights as an employee are preserved and cannot threaten, fire or penalize you in any way for having taken DSVL (Ontario, 2017). For more information about DSVL and your rights under the Employment Standards Act, you can contact the Ministry of Labour Health and Safety Contact Centre, at 1-877-202-0008 or contact the Ontario Labour Relations Board at1-877-339-3335. There are also lawyers at many of the Community Legal Clinics across Ontario that can provide you with free legal information and advice regarding your rights as an employee. Several Community Legal Clinics are also offering legal advice and representation to people who have experienced sexual and/or intimate partner violence through the Your Way Forward project, including the Peterborough Community Legal Center.
Canada, S. (2023, December 12). Government of Canada. What these benefits offer - Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/ei-sickness.html
Canada, F. C. A. of. (2023, November 29). Government of Canada. Canada.ca. https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/services/insurance/disability.html
Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, c. 41
Government of Ontario. (2017, November 22). Domestic or sexual violence leave: Your guide to the employment standards act. ontario.ca. https://www.ontario.ca/document/your-guide-employment-standards-act-0/domestic-or-sexual-violence-leave#:~:text=It%20provides%20up%20to%2010,and%20the%20rest%20are%20unpaid.
Kerr , T. (2019, August 22). How PTSD is affecting return to work. Genex. https://www.genexservices.com/insights/workers-comp/blog/how-ptsd-affecting-return-work#:~:text=Now%2C%20symptoms%20of%20PTSD%20can,work%2C%20flashbacks%2C%20and%20absenteeism.
Anne-Marie Langan B.A., B.S.W., LL.B., LL.M. is the project lead for the sexual violence projects at Peterborough Community Legal Centre, including the SHAPE project which provides legal advice and education for those experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace and the Your Way Forward project which provides support for those who have experienced intimate partner and/or sexual violence. These projects are both sponsored by the government of Canada's Department of Justice. She can be reached directly at email@example.com.
Disclaimer: This post contains general legal information as of January 24, 2024 that may or may not apply in a particular situation. It is important to note that the law and government policies can change and this blog will not be updated to reflect these changes. It is highly recommended to seek legal advice from a lawyer about your particular situation.