FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has introduced amendments to the Employment Standards Act that would include domestic, intimate partner or sexual violence leave, and also update unpaid leave provisions.

“Your government remains committed to making New Brunswick the best place in which to live, work and raise a family,” said Labour, Employment and Population Growth Minister Gilles LePage. “Modernizing our employment standards legislation is essential to maintain a competitive labour market and improve the quality of life of hard-working New Brunswickers. Ensuring job protection for those who need to leave work to take care of themselves or a family member contributes to a healthy workforce.”

The amendments related to domestic, intimate partner and sexual violence would allow employees the time and opportunity to make a life change and enhance their safety and security. The Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour will conduct a 60-day consultation, after which the government will introduce regulatory amendments based on the feedback received.

“We are pleased to see the Government of New Brunswick bring forward this important legislation,” said Cathy Holtmann, director of the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research. “There is no question that this legislation will go a long way in supporting victims of domestic and intimate partner violence, including sexual violence.”

“Unifor has made protected leave for victims of sexual violence a priority at many collective bargaining tables, but we know, in order to ensure it is there for all workers, a legislative fix is required,” said Lana Payne, Atlantic regional director for the private-sector union Unifor. “Women who face sexual violence, as well as intimate partner and domestic violence, need to know that if they need time from work to get to safety, to make plans for them and their children to leave a violent situation, that they will not also face losing their job, that their employment is protected. Unifor looks forward to contributing to the upcoming consultations.”

Updating unpaid leave protections in the act to reflect changes to the federal Employment Insurance Act, which took effect on Dec. 3, 2017, would facilitate access to federal income support programs for workers who take maternity, child care, family caregiver or critical illness leave.

The Employment Standards Act provides for minimum standards in areas of employment such as minimum wage, overtime pay, weekly rest periods, paid public holidays and various leaves, such as maternity, child care, sick, bereavement and compassionate care. Employers and employees may agree to terms and conditions that exceed those minimums. Modernizing employment legislation ensures that the province keeps pace with best practices and legislative developments across the country, and adapts to shifting labour force demographics, new work arrangements and the changing needs of employers and employees.