Northern Ireland has introduced a form of paid leave for the victims of domestic abuse. The newly passed Domestic Abuse (Safe Leave) Bill will entitle victims to ten days off work in a year as a day one right. This will be known as “safe leave”. It is unclear when this right will come in to force as of yet.
The intention of safe leave will be to provide the victim the opportunity to seek legal advice, find housing, seek medical care or any other kind of support. While on this kind of leave the employee will be entitled to all their normal terms and conditions of employment.
This means that Northern Ireland is the first country in the United Kingdom to offer victims of domestic abuse assistance through employment rights. In other parts of the UK victims currently have no other option but to take sickness absence, holidays, or unpaid time off to deal with these issues. However, some larger companies such as Danske Bank and Vodafone have already chosen to implement such policies for victims of domestic abuse.
The COVID 19 pandemic has shone a light on these issues. Research has shown that domestic violence has significantly increased since the pandemic began. Refuge’s Domestic Abuse Helpline saw an increase of 60% in calls at the start of 2020.
While there are no concrete plans for the other nations in the UK to implement this legislation, employers can take action on this issue if they wish. ACAS has updated its work from home guidance to include a section on domestic abuse. They recommend that employers implement a domestic abuse policy which outlines the support available to staff members and the common signs of domestic abuse. It is also open to employers to provide training for their managers on such issues.
If you have any questions on any of the issues mentioned in the above article, please contact Natalia Milne.