Understanding Bill 26 and How it Impacts You

Recent amendments to Bill 132 addressed harassment in the workplace. Now Bill 26 proposes employers will need to go one step further – providing training, leave and accommodation for employees affected by sexual and domestic violence.

How Does Bill 26 Define Domestic Violence?

The Domestic and Sexual Violence Workplace Leave, Accommodation and Training Act, 2016, otherwise known as Bill 26 defines domestic violence as a threat or act of abuse between a person and

  • their current, or previous “intimate” partner;
  • a child who shares a residence with that person; or
  • another individual who shares a home with the individual, and is related to that person by blood or marriage, adoption or foster care.

Additionally, the abuse can be physical, sexual, psychological or emotional in nature and may also include acts of stalking, coercion, harassment or financial control.

How Does Bill 26 define Sexual Violence

Any act or conduct

  • sexual in nature, or targeting of a person’s sexuality, gender expression or identity; or
  • attempted, threatened or committed against a person without their express consent – including, but not limited to sexual assault, harassment, indecent exposure, stalking, voyeurism, exploitation or sexual solicitation.

Sexual violence can include acts

  • occurring online; or
  • within an intimate partner or domestic relationship.

What Changes Does Bill 26 Propose?

Bill 26 wants to change the Employment Standards Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act by outlining sexual and domestic violence leave provisions.

One of the recommended changes to the ESA is the creation of a job-protected leave of absence for an employee who has experienced, or who has children who have experienced sexual or domestic violence. The leave would be in addition to leave(s) already defined in the ESA. Although there is no specified length of time in the proposed change, the leave of absence can last for “reasonable” duration. But unlike other leaves outlined in the ESA, an employee would continue to receive their regular salary for up to 10 days, in each calendar year.

Leave Eligibility

A person can only be eligible for the leave of absence if they take the leave for one or more of the following purposes to

  • obtain social services programs or services;
  • seek medical attention, including psychological or physical care;
  • get professional counseling, such as psychological or psychiatric counseling;
  • move or otherwise relocate in an effort to reduce or eliminate subsequent instances of violence; or
  • seek or obtain law or other legal enforcement assistance.

Employers will be required to keep any information relating to an employee’s leave confidential, unless

  • that employee consents to disclosure;
  • disclosure is required by law; or
  • disclosure is needed by an employee to complete job-related duties.

Employers will also be required to

  • retain or arrange for the secure retention of all correspondence, notices, certificates or other documents relevant to the employee’s absence for three year’s following the day after the leave expires.

Accommodation Requirements

Employers are also required to “reasonably” accommodate an employee requesting leave under Bill 26.

Accommodation may include a change to an employee’s

  • regular work hours;
  • scheduled shift; or
  • place of work.

Evidence Requirements

Bill 26 recognizes and acknowledges employers may require information or other evidence to substantiate the accommodation request, but limits requests for evidence to only that which is reasonably available under the circumstances.

  • Any evidence supplied by an employee at an employer’s request must be retained, or arrangements made for its retention, for three years following the date after the accommodation expires.

Bill 26, OHSA, & Education

Bill 26 will modify OHSA to require that employers provide every worker, supervisor and manager with instruction and information about workplace sexual and domestic violence. And while the specifics of the requirements are not clear, considering the current harassment & sexual harassment training requirements, employers might consider adding sexual and domestic violence education to the training curriculum at their earliest opportunity.

If you are looking for additional Ontario employment news and law updates, contact the team at Employment Professionals Canada. As the Ontario’s leading HR and staffing expert, we have the market knowledge and experience to help you navigate these changes. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.