Understanding Bill 157 and What It Means for You

For most employers, there is a clear line between the personal and professional lives of their employees; however, with the introduction of Bill 157, it seems that line has now become a little blurred – as it has many people on the fence. The bill was recently brought forth for its first reading at the end of September with little in the way of opposition. With all signs pointing to the bill passing, it has many employers wondering what exactly Bill 157 is and how it will impact their business.

What is Bill 157?

Bill 157, also known as the Domestic and Sexual Violence Act, 2017, is an amendment to the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA) and the Occupational Health and Safety Act, 1990.

Employment Standards Act

Under the ESA, the Proposed Act, if passed, would give employees who have been the victim of domestic or sexual violence, threat of violence or have children who were the victim of this violence or threat of violence paid leave.

The Proposed Act would allow employees to take up to 10 days paid leave and 15 weeks unpaid leave; however, this leave is only available for the following purposes:

  • To seek medical attention for the employee or their child (physical and psychological)
  • To obtain victim services from a victim services organization for the employee or their child
  • To obtain counselling; psychological or other professional counselling
  • To relocate temporarily or permanently
  • To seek legal or law enforcement assistance, including preparing and participating in any civil or criminal legal proceedings
  • Such other purposes as prescribed

As it stands in its current draft, the Ontario Government would pay for this leave.

However, there is a catch. In order to qualify, an employee must have been continuously employed for 13 weeks with the employer and must inform the employer of their intent to take this leave in writing. This is where it gets tricky.

Employers have the right to request reasonable evidence to assess the employee’s entitlement to the leave, but unfortunately, the bill provides little guidance for the employer in terms of how, when and what evidence to ask for in such a situation.

Occupational Health and Safety Act

If passed, the Proposed Act would make an amendment to the Occupation Health and Safety Act in so much as employers would be required to ensure that every supervisor and worker receive information and instruction about domestic violence and sexual violence in the workplace.

Currently, there is no set curriculum, guide or outline as to what this training should be.

If you are looking for the best employees and a partner who understands the legal landscape and nuances of Ontario employment laws, turn to Employment Professionals Canada. We are more than just staffing industry experts, we are a partner that helps your business grow. Contact us today to find out how we can work for you.