A local union in Alberta has secured domestic violence leave for employees who work at a long-term care facility in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.

The new three-year agreement for staff at Rivercrest Care Centre includes terms about domestic violence leave, according to a press release issued by the United Steelworkers. “New provisions on domestic violence leave are an important precedent because domestic and sexual violence is still a problem in Canada,” said Ray White, president of Local 1-207.

“Thanks to the anti-violence work by our women of steel committee, we’re doing something about domestic violence by negotiating leave provisions at the bargaining table.”

Read: Domestic violence is an issue for many Canadian employers: report

The contract allows employees suffering from domestic violence to take time off for legal, medical, counselling or other appointments, according to the union. It also allows them to maintain confidentiality so they aren’t subject to any stigma associated with domestic violence.

The union’s national women committee has compelled the new changes through its campaign to increase awareness about domestic violence.

“I’m proud of these steelworkers for taking action. They’ve taken our campaign to end violence against women and made practical steps to address it through workplace bargaining,” said Steve Hunt, the union’s director for Western Canada. “If we can get more employers adding leave provisions, provincial governments will have to follow suit, so all employees will have these protections.”

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Rivercrest Care Centre’s parent company Qualicare Health Services Corp. also owns four other long-term facility centres, according to Blair Halliday, its chief operating officer, who notes that among about 520 employees, nearly 500 are women.

Despite this, he still says he was caught off guard by the request. “The thought was how far as an employer do we go to assist our staff with personal issues,” he said. “The other thing I struggled with is how do you satisfy yourself as an employer that this truly exists. And I guess after thinking it through, I thought it would be unusual that somebody would abuse that provision of the collective agreement.

“It’s one of those things when you look you live in a bubble but the reality is it happens more than you think.”

Last year, the province of Manitoba added domestic violence leave provisions in its employment standards legislation. In Ontario, a private member’s bill is under consideration. And, in British Columbia, a local United Steelworkers union has negotiated domestic violence leave provisions for a group of hospitality workers.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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