SJIWFF adopts a Domestic Violence Leave Policy

You might have heard in the news that the St. John’s Status of Women Council (SJSOWC) recently implemented a Domestic Violence Leave Policy. The groundbreaking policy will be used within the organization to provide three days of paid leave (non-consecutive) for employees experiencing domestic violence, allowing them to seek assistance for legal, health, housing, and childcare needs.

Why is this so important? According to the Canadian Labour Congress report, Domestic Violence at Work, over 80 percent of people affected by domestic violence report that their work performance was negatively affected. Some have even lost their jobs as a direct result.

We at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival are pleased to announce that we'll also be adopting this policy. When it comes to keeping our employees safe--even those indirectly affected--it just makes sense.

The SJSOWC has been working with the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour to advocate for Domestic Leave Legislation in the province, providing paid leave for domestic violence victims through amendments to Labour and Employment legislation. On July 4, 2017, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour adopted it's own Domestic Violence at Work Leave Policy.

While a handful of organizations and businesses across Canada have already adapted similar practices, there’s still a long ways to go. As SJSOWC executive director Jenny Wright points out, the effects of domestic violence have far-reaching consequences, including a threat to the safety of other employees in the workplace.

Did you know Canadian employers lose $77.9 million annually due to the direct and indirect impacts of domestic violence?

We met with Wright a few weeks ago to discuss how we can implement our own policy, and were encouraged to adapt the SJSOWC policy to suit our Festival needs, like addressing the potential issues around late-night screenings and multiple-venue events. Connected with this, the SJIWFF team are working together to build a Safer Space Policy in advance of our upcoming Festival this October. It’s important that all staff feel safe and that we prevent any issues when we can.

It's also important that victims of domestic violence can communicate privately with their employer about safety concerns and that the employer supports them in return. This may include ensuring safety when it comes to leaving a venue after dark, offering a parking lot escort, or being able to confidentially understand restraining orders or other realities for your staff.

Under the policy, employers are encouraged to meet with employees individually to let them know that the policy is there. If you're an employer, it's incredibly important to have an open discussion about what the Domestic Violence Leave Policy means. Offer a safe and private environmental for individuals to come forward with their needs.

We encourage your organization to also consider adapting the Domestic Violence Leave Policy. Regardless of gender, it's an important policy to have in place. The Festival is also working toward creating a Safer Space policy, with input and advice from our volunteers, patrons, and community. We welcome all feedback as we develop this work in advance of our 28th annual Festival in October. 

Let's work to keep people safe while they're enjoying the Festival!


Candice Walsh