New Sinn Féin legislation, The Organisation of Working Time (Domestic Violence Leave) 2019 Bill, seeks to provide ten days paid domestic violence leave to women and men leaving abusive relationships. In 2017 the European Institute for Gender Equality estimated that intimate partner violence against women costs EU member states €109bn per year.
This legislation is already in place in New Zealand, Canada, the Philippines and other jurisdictions. It is long overdue here. Women who experience domestic violence have high rates of absenteeism at work. This legislation, underpinned by a solid policy on domestic violence and sexual violence, can create a safe and supportive workplace for employees experiencing, or at risk of, domestic violence.
This policy can contribute to more job security, economic opportunities and independence. It offers greater chances for abused women and men to abandon an abusive relationship. By facilitating paid leave, it will enable the person experiencing the abuse to take time out from work without fear to put in place safeguards to keep themselves and their family safe without having to worry about losing a day’s pay, forced to take annual leave, penalised or reprimanded to be at risk for losing their position with the organisation.
Domestic violence impacts on an employee’s performance at work resulting in lost hours and less productivity. Co-workers may be aware of a colleague’s abuse but in the absence of a workplace policy are unsure on how best to support them. Managers need guidance on how to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and how to respond to staff member’s disclosure.
Sinn Féin has worked with Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service, Safe Ireland and SIPTU to introduce this legislation. I commend my colleagues Mary Lou McDonald and Maurice Quinlivan for the work they have done on this Bill and look forward to its implementation.