When people who are experiencing violence know their job and income are secure, they may feel more confident about seeking help. Paid leave means that people have access to time off to do things like go to court, talk with legal advisors, meet with domestic violence counsellors, move houses, access medical attention, find child care or do other tasks that may need to take place during working hours. It’s important to negotiate additional, dedicated paid leave which can be accessed prior to depleting other leave—workers in a domestic violence crisis need all available leave. The number of days can vary depending on your industry and workplace environment. Precedents range from 5 days (Yukon Teachers) to 20 days and even unlimited (Australia).
- The employer recognizes that employees sometimes face situations of violence or abuse in their personal life that may affect their attendance and performance at work.
- Workers experiencing domestic violence will be able to access (x) days of paid leave for attendance at medical appointments, legal proceedings and any other necessary activities. This leave will be in addition to existing leave entitlements and may be taken as consecutive or single days or as a fraction of a day, without prior approval.
General provisions and workplace safety and violence policies
In addition to paid leave, unions can negotiate language that recognizes domestic violence as an important workplace concern and requires specific services and supports, like safety planning, training, referrals and accommodation. Language should include provisions for confidentiality and protection from discipline or adverse action due to the impacts of domestic violence at work. Collective agreements can also require employers to develop and make accessible a clear policy on addressing the impacts of domestic violence at work.
Some employers might insist on a requirement for proof in order to access domestic violence entitlements. If that is the case, unions should ensure that language is as flexible as possible and includes the possibility of letters provided by workers at women’s shelters or other crisis services.
Suggested language on:
All personal information concerning domestic violence will be kept confidential in line with relevant legislation. No information will be kept on an employee’s personnel file without their express written permission.
Protection from discipline and adverse action
The Employer agrees that no adverse action will be taken against an employee if their attendance or performance at work suffers as a result of experiencing domestic violence.
The Employer will develop a workplace policy on preventing and addressing domestic violence at the workplace. The policy will be made accessible to all employees and will be reviewed annually. It should explain the appropriate action to be taken in the event that an employee reports domestic violence or is perpetrating domestic violence, identify the process for reporting, risk assessments and safety planning, indicate available supports and protect employees’ confidentiality and privacy while ensuring workplace safety for all.
Workplace supports and training
The Employer will provide awareness training on domestic violence and its impacts on the workplace to all employees.
The Employer will identify a contact in [Human Resources/Management] who will be trained in domestic violence and privacy issues, for example training in domestic violence risk assessment and risk management. The Employer will advertise the name of the designated domestic violence contact to all employees. [NOTE: unions may also want to negotiate recognition of and support for trained union-led peer support representatives, such as Women’s Advocates.
The Employer will approve any reasonable request from an employee experiencing domestic violence for the following:
- Changes to their working hours or shift patterns;
- Job redesign, changes to duties or reduced workload;
- Job transfer to another location or department;
- A change to their telephone number, email address, or call screening to avoid harassing contact; and
- Any other appropriate measure including those available under existing provisions for family-friendly and flexible working arrangements.
Women’s advocates and union-led peer support programs
A Women’s Advocate is a specially trained workplace representative who assists women in the workplace with concerns such as workplace harassment, intimate partner abuse or family violence. She is not a counsellor, but a person that other women workers can go to for support and referrals to community resources. Unifor Women’s Advocate Program is one example of an effective initiative where a union and employer work together to promote a safe and healthy workplace. All Advocates complete a week‑long training conducted by the union but paid for by the employer with regular supplementary training.
Model language (adapted from Unifor)
- The employer and union recognize that employees who identify as women sometimes need to discuss with another woman matters such as violence or abuse at home or workplace harassment.
- Workers who are women may also need to find out about resources in the workplace or community to help them deal with these issues such as the EAP program, a women’s shelter, or a counsellor.
- For these reasons, the parties agree to recognize the role of Women’s Advocate in the workplace.
- The Women’s Advocate will be determined by the Union from amongst the bargaining unit employees who identify as women.
- The Advocate will meet with women workers as required and discuss problems with them and assist accordingly, referring them to the appropriate agency when necessary.
- The Employer agrees to provide access to a confidential phone line and voicemail that is maintained by the Advocate and accessible for all women workers to use to make contact when needed.
- The Employer will provide access to a private office in order for the Advocate to meet with employees confidentially.
- The Employer and the Union will develop appropriate communications to inform all women employees of the advocacy role of the Women’s Advocate and information on how to contact her.
- The Employer will provide the Advocate with a management support person to assist her in her role.
- The Advocate will participate in an initial basic training and an annual update training program to be delivered by the Union.
- The Employer agrees to pay for lost time, travel time, registration costs, lodging, transportation, meals, and other reasonable expenses.
Click here for more information about the Unifor Women’s Advocate Program.