- Women’s Aid welcomes the passing of new legislation providing for a statutory Domestic Violence Leave (Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022) saying it is a key contribution to the strategy to build zero tolerance of domestic abuse in Ireland, but the welcome remains qualified until the rate of pay is determined.
- Five days Domestic Violence Leave over 12 months will be available to employees subjected to abuse which offers crucial time off to access legal advice, specialist support and other services to manage the dangerous situation they are in.
- Women’s Aid remains very concerned that the new arrangements on the rate of pay were not formalised as a worker’s full pay and, if the Minister does not regulate for this, it could act as a deterrent rather than a support for victims/survivors of domestic abuse.
- Full pay, not a pay cut, for Domestic Violence Leave is the simplest and best approach to assure the safety of victims/survivors of domestic abuse and in keeping with the intention of the law.
- Urgent need for Minister O’Gorman to promptly finalise a process to regulate for the rate of pay, and do so at a worker’s full pay, so that this law can take effect. After years of consultation, and preparation victims/survivors simply can’t wait any longer.
Thursday 30th March 2023: Women’s Aid, a leading national organisation working to prevent and address the impact of domestic violence and abuse since 1974, has given a qualified welcome to the passing of the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022, introduced by Minister Roderic O’Gorman, Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. This legislation includes a provision for statutory Domestic Violence Leave which will provide a vital tool for those subjected to abuse to access safety and maintain economic independence. The new legislation, once commenced, will provide for a maximum five days of leave over a twelve-month period. It is a measure that will ensure that valued workers are given the best opportunity to access safety, advice and support at possibly the worst moment in their working lives.
However, Women’s Aid remains concerned that the rate of pay has not yet been determined by the Minister and if it is anything less that an employee’s full pay it could act as a deterrent rather than a support for victims of domestic abuse. The organisation calls on Minister O’Gorman to prioritise the process outlined in the legislation to regulate and determine the rate of pay as a matter of urgency, and in a manner focused on victims/survivors needs, so that this law can take effect and make a real positive difference.
Sarah Benson, CEO of Women’s Aid says:
“We welcome the passing of Domestic Violence Leave as part of the Work Life Balance Bill 2022. Overall, this legislation is an excellent first step for Ireland. If done right, it will be a pivotal tool to offer support, to raise awareness in every workplace and further reduce the stigma that persists towards those subjected to domestic abuse and redirect it towards zero tolerance for the cause: those who perpetrate harm. The implementation is key, and Women’s Aid also welcomes the support the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth have committed to assist employers with appropriate policies for businesses of all sizes to help ensure it has the positive impact intended while minimising any difficulty for employers.”
However, Ms Benson states:
“It is vitally important that this new leave is made as safe and supportive as possible. While we accept and appreciate the motivation and efforts of Minister O’Gorman in bringing this landmark legislation, the Minister has nonetheless created yet another process required to determine the rate of pay for this leave. This comes after many years awaiting the law, and a very significant and protracted consultation already undertaken. We have also made our recommendations on this matter very clear throughout this process. We had understood from recent public statements made by key Government figures, that the matter would be simply resolved within the legislation but now regulations are required, and the rate of pay has not yet been set. We hope therefore that there will be no delay to finalising this matter so the law can take effect. Women’s Aid will continue to strongly advocate that this leave be at full pay to assure matters of victim/survivor safety, confidentiality, and equity. We further note and welcome strong support for this from Oireachtas members of all parties and none.”
The provision of Domestic Violence Leave provides a safe means to access crucial services that can support victims on their difficult journey when an abuser thinks they are at work thereby providing ‘cover’, but must crucially be offered without the loss of income. Women’s Aid strongly believe that the law should start on the basis of full pay and we are confident that, on evaluation, it will not prove to be an excessive burden on employers. Providing for a full pay, not a pay cut, for Domestic Violence Leave is the simplest and best approach to assure the safety of victims/survivors of domestic abuse.
Ms Benson explains why Domestic Violence Leave at full rate of pay is crucial:
“In relationships where domestic abuse is being perpetrated, a woman’s income can often be intensely controlled. When income is monitored and/or appropriated by an abuser, a change in normal salary may alert the abuser that she has not attended work as usual, or could prompt a confrontation where she has to explain what has happened to cause the drop in pay, potentially jeopardising safety including signalling to an abuser that a woman may be taking steps to try and leave which can be the most high risk period with an abusive relationship. In many cases, Domestic Violence Leave may be taken by women who are in the process of questioning the relationship or leaving an abuser. Separation is not only a very dangerous time, but also an expensive time. Women face additional and significant expenses ranging including incurring legal expenses; costs of alternative accommodation for themselves and their children and managing a household on a single income. It is a period where every available euro really counts.”
Women’s Aid is itself and employer and we have also engaged with employer representative groups. It understands the frustrations that some employers express in managing a range of new provisions and regulations at a challenging time.
Ms Benson states:
“Concessions have already been made to employers by reducing the original provision of ten days leave by half to five days maximum over twelve months. There is already a commitment that this legislation will be reviewed after just two years which is a short time for this to be tested. We can already learn from international best practice and knowledge drawn from other countries who have already tried and tested Domestic Violence Leave such as in New Zealand and Australia they have actually significantly increased benefits available in law.”
Ms Benson concludes:
“Providing Domestic Violence Leave, once it is supported by a policy to let employees know how it can be accessed, is a genuine ‘win-win’ for employers and employees alike. It is already recognised as a proportionately small investment in a policy and practice that contributes enormously to staff well-being and satisfaction. Women’s Aid is working with companies, large and small, who already provide Domestic Violence Leave at full rate of pay, knowing it is the supportive thing to do for valued team members in their time of need, while increasing staff retention and satisfaction.”
Support for anyone affected: Women’s Aid 24hr National Freephone Helpline 1800 341 900, open seven days a week.
Instant Message Support Service on www.womensaid.ie, open mornings and evenings, seven days a week.
National Male Advice Line 1800 816 588 https://mensnetwork.ie/mal/
For more information contact Christina Sherlock on 0879192457 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes for editors/producers:
- One in four women in Ireland who have been in a relationship have been abused by a current or former partner.
- More than 1 in 3 (37%) working people surveyed across multiple industries and at varying levels of seniority have experienced domestic abuse. (Vodafone Foundation, 2019)
- Almost all (94%) employees who are subjected to abuse report an impact on their work performance. (Vodafone Foundation, 2021)
- Many women are prevented from working, forced to work part-time or take sick leave, or become ill, stressed, or lose confidence as a result of the abuse they are subjected to. Some will ultimately cease working. (Safe Ireland and NUIG, 2021)