Sinn Féin has progressed legislation through the Dáil that will provide for a statutory entitlement to domestic violence paid leave.
Despite the significant increase in demand for services during the pandemic, domestic violence and abuse continues to be underreported due to stigma, shame and fear.
Domestic violence and abuse do not stop when a victim leaves their home and often follows them into their place of work.
Legislation has a role to play in protecting women in the workplace and to ensure that victim’s rights and entitlements as employees are enhanced and protected.
Sinn Féin’s legislation provides for a statutory annual entitlement of up to 10 days domestic violence paid leave.
This provision would enable victims to take the necessary time off work that they need to seek support, find accommodation or attend court in a structured and supported environment. It also addresses unpredictable absenteeism and reduced productivity for employers.
Along with the provision of proper funding for domestic violence shelters, this legislation to provide domestic violence leave is part of a number of steps that must be taken to help victims of domestic violence get support, get to safety and rebuild their lives.
New Zealand, Australia and provinces in Canada have all introduced forms of paid leave. Ireland’s ratification of the Istanbul Convention and enactment of supporting legislation were important landmarks that must now be built on.
ICTU recently called on the government to ratify ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work. Article 18 of the accompanying recommendation identifies the provision of paid leave for the victims of domestic violence, flexible work arrangements and awareness-raising about the effects of domestic violence as appropriate measures to mitigate the impacts of domestic violence in the world of work.
This legislation would be an important addition to existing workplace rights and critically it would give victims the time to secure the support they need in the knowledge that their employment is secure.
Organisation of Working Time (Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2020
Louise and Mary Lou have introduced legislation that amends the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 to create a statutory entitlement of up to 10 days paid leave in a 12-month period for employees as a consequence of domestic violence.
Link to statement – https://www.sinnfein.ie/contents/58860
Government commitments and obligations
· The current Programme for Government commits to investigate the provision of domestic violence paid leave
· ICTU have recently called on the government to ratify ILO Convention 190 ratify ILO Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment in the World of Work. Article 18 of the accompanying recommendation specifies measures which should be taken to mitigate the impacts of domestic violence at work which include leave for the victims of domestic violence, flexible work arrangements and the inclusion of domestic violence in workplace risk assessments.
What other countries have a statutory entitlement to domestic violence paid leave?
New Zealand’s parliament passed legislation introducing paid leave for victims of domestic violence which will come into effect in April 2019 of this year in the public and private sectors.
On the 1st of January 2019 the government of New South Wales introduced ten days paid domestic leave for all public sector employees.
Paid leave is also provided for in legislation in Canada’s Manitoba and Ontario provinces and in the Philippine’s since 2004.
Why have we provided 10 days leave?
Where domestic violence leave has already been introduced the provision is 10 days, so we have taken this as the bar to be met or exceeded.
Last year Vodafone introduced 10 days domestic violence paid leave and additional support for their employees globally.
On what basis can domestic violence leave be taken?
An employee is entitled to take domestic violence leave to seek medical attention for themselves or a dependent person (child or loco parentis) in respect of a physical or psychological injury psychological injury or disability resulting from domestic violence; to seek assistance from a support service; counselling; find accommodation; legal advice and/or attend court or other purposes as may be prescribed.
How much notice does an employee have to give their employer?
As soon as is reasonably practicable before the employee is due to start work. Where this is not possible as soon as reasonably practicable after the start of the working day.
Employers must maintain confidentiality of all matters relayed to them by the employee and not disclose personal information unless as required by law or with the consent of the employee.
Will the employee still be paid?
Yes, at their normal rate of pay.
Are there any protections for employers in the event the leave is not taken for its intended purpose?
Yes. The same protections apply to this legislation as do with the Parental Leave Act. An employer can terminate or refuse the domestic violence leave if they believe it has not been taken for its intended purpose.
In turn the employee has recourse to the Workplace Relations Commission to challenge an employer’s decision.
Does the legislation provide a definition for domestic violence?
There is currently no definition of domestic violence in Irish law however for the purposes of this legislation we had to provide one which was drafted in consultation with domestic violence advocates.
An act of physical violence, sexual violence, psychological abuse, emotional abuse or economic abuse committed by a relevant person (spouse, civil partner, intimate relationship at the time of or before the abuse took place) and includes coercive control.
Domestic violence is a workplace issue
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 a staff member’s disclosure. Employers have a duty of care to their staff and workplace health and safety procedures should include provisions that acknowledge domestic violence. Critically work should also provide a safe and supportive space for victims of abuse.
The economic cost of domestic violence
· While the emotional and psychological personal cost of domestic and gender-based violence is devastating, there are also significant economic costs associated with this crime
· Domestic violence impacts on an employee’s performance at work resulting in lost hours and less productivity.
· In 2017 the European Institute for Gender Equality estimated that intimate partner violence against women costs EU member states €109bn per year. The three main types of costs identified were lost economic output, provision of services, including health, legal, social and specialised; and the personal, physical and emotional impact on the victim.
· The Council of Europe Combatting Violence Against Women study notes that, ‘employers and the business sector have to bear substantial losses caused by the psychological and ill-health consequences of violence against women, such as unpredictable absenteeism from work, reduced productivity, poor concentration and accidents.’