The B.C. government is planning to bring up to five days of paid leave for victims of domestic or sexual assault: (Screenshot / Ministry of Labour)

The B.C. government plans to roll out new legislation to provide up to five days of paid leave for people impacted by domestic or sexual violence, and those who are guardians of a child or dependent who may be a victim.

The new legislation, announced Tuesday, is intended to protect victims of domestic or sexual violence from losing income, or even their jobs, as they take time to attend to appointments, counselling or other general needs.

"People faced with domestic and sexual violence should not have to lose pay when dealing with the aftermath," said Mitzi Dean, B.C.'s parliamentary secretary for gender equity.

"The changes introduced today help support people so they can attend medical appointments and make the necessary changes to ensure they and their children are safe."

Previously, B.C. only allowed for 10 days of unpaid but job-protected leave from work for those impacted by domestic or sexual violence. The new legislative amendments, if passed, would guarantee that up to five of those 10 days would be paid by employers. 

Before these amendments were announced, B.C. was one of only two provinces in Canada – the other being Alberta – to not offer paid leave for survivors of domestic and sexual assault. 

"In my 38 years working in this field, I have known too many survivors who have lost their jobs simply because they needed a few days away from work to deal with the aftermath of violence," said Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of British Columbia.

The length of paid leave in other provinces ranges from two to five days. 

British Columbia decided to offer five days of paid leave following a consultation period with thousands of British Columbians, including stakeholders and business associations. Out of the approximately 6,250 people that participated in the consultation period, 93 per cent of respondents were in favour of creating paid leave for survivors of violence, with the majority saying that the leave should be up to five days.

"A person facing domestic or sexual violence needs and deserves any support their community can offer them," said Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of the BC Restaurant & Food Services Association. "Paid leave will make it easier, especially for people with children, to escape abusive situations." 

"Our membership has expressed concern about affordability, but we all agree that we, as a part of our wider community, have a responsibility to help people escape abuse in any way we can," he said.