10/26/2018 13:38 EDT | Updated 10/26/2018 13:38 EDT

Ontario PCs Agree With Kathleen Wynne On 1 Thing: Victims Of Abuse Deserve A Break

The new government is gutting Liberal labour reforms, but won't change leave for victims of violence.

Government of Ontario Announcements/YouTube
Ontario Minister of Labour Laurie Scott announces new legislation in Scarborough, Ont. on Oct. 23, 2018.

Every Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP agreed not to scrap the job leave policy for victims of domestic and sexual violence that was designed by the Liberal government, the minister of labour says.

"I've had a long history of bringing provisions in to protect women against violence," Minister Laurie Scott told HuffPost Canada. "Unanimously, we wanted to keep those provisions in."

The PC government announced Tuesday that it would repeal other reforms brought in under former premier Kathleen Wynne, including a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and guarantee every worker two paid sick days a year.

The Liberals legislated five paid days of leave for employees who are experiencing abuse or whose children are.

Those days give people the time they need to leave abusive partners, get in touch with shelters or reach out to law enforcement and family lawyers.

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"It's very helpful for women," said Gwen O'Reilly, the centre coordinator of the Northwestern Ontario Women's Centre in Thunder Bay, Ont. The centre supports women who are fleeing abuse or who need help navigating the justice system.

"Women have been having to take unpaid leave from workplaces for this reason for eons. I can't tell you the number of women I've talked to at work in a closet on their lunch hour, trying to figure out what they're going to do and how they're going to do it."

I can't tell you the number of women I've talked to at work in a closet on their lunch hour.Gwen O'Reilly

She said it takes days to process trauma, so survivors of abuse need rest before they can provide a thorough statement to police or decide on the best course of action.

"They need a break."

But some of the PCs' other changes won't be as helpful, O'Reilly said.

Their proposed law would do the following:

  • kill a requirement that employers pay workers for three hours of work if they cancel a shift less than 48 hours in advance,

  • repeal equal pay for part-time, casual and temporary workers who do the same work as full-time employees,

  • let employers demand a doctor's note when an employee takes time off for illness.

"Any change in policy that makes work more precarious ... is going to make the choice of leaving an abusive relationship more difficult," O'Reilly said.

Another critic echoed her concern.

"All of these things are going to harm women and newcomers and workers of colour," said Pam Frache, campaign coordinator for advocacy group $15 and Fairness.

Women more likely to work part-time

She pointed out that women are more likely than men to work part-time and still bear the brunt of responsibility at home, which means they're also more likely to need a day off to take care of a child or elderly relative.

Scott said those other provisions encourage businesses to invest in Ontario by removing extra costs of doing business here.

"We are trying to create a better economy with measures that will provide better-paying jobs to all genders," she said.

Previously On HuffPost: