CHARLOTTETOWN – The Prince Edward Island government is looking for feedback on legislation granting paid time off to people who have experienced traumatic forms of violence.
The province’s Employment Standards Act was amended earlier this year to provide up to three days of paid leave and seven days of unpaid leave for survivors of domestic, intimate parter and sexual violence.
Bill 116, the private member’s bill which proposed the changes, was introduced by MLA Steven Myers in the legislature’s spring session, where it passed unanimously.
“There’s a way to start the healing process, and it’s by giving survivors of traumatic incidents an outlet, or some time to seek help, make changes in their life, or whatever needs to happen,” Myers said in a phone interview Sunday.
Islanders are asked to give input on proposed regulations on how the amendment will be implemented: namely, to define key terms and address how leave eligibility will be determined.
According to numbers from the province’s Premier’s Action Committee on Family Violence Prevention, there were nearly 300 victims of reported intimate partner violence cases substantiated by police in P.E.I. in 2016.
The committee also found 85 people were referred to Victim Services for sexual assault matters between April 2016 and March 2017.
Myers said his top priority is ensuring privacy and confidentiality so that taking leave for victims of violence will be as barrier-free as possible, saying that survivors need time to heal and these issues can be difficult to come forward to an employer about.
“We don’t want to put any more stress on someone in a very stressful time in their lives,” he said. “It can’t be a big, long, cumbersome period where you’re trying to justify your reasons for needing it.”
Myers said business owners may have concerns over the bill, but he hopes the consultation process will help address all sides of this issue, from the perspective of both business owners and survivors of domestic or sexual violence.
The government also wants to hear what people think of reducing the eligibility requirement for sick leave and extending job protection periods for compassionate care leave and parental leave.
In a press release launching the online consultation, Workforce Minister Sonny Gallant said the government needs input “to ensure this bill protects the employment of Islanders who need temporary leave from work to take care of themselves or family members.”
Islanders can provide feedback until August 27 through the government’s website.