Domestic Violence Leave
In a significant step towards recognising and addressing the pervasive issue of domestic violence and abuse, Domestic Violence Leave was introduced by the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 2023. This new statutory entitlement aims to provide crucial support to victims of domestic violence and abuse by acknowledging the need for specialised leave provisions to help them navigate through challenging times.
The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, announced on 7th August 2023 that victims of domestic violence will receive their full pay if they need to take domestic violence leave. From Monday, 27 November 2023, it will be a legal requirement for employers to offer up to five days of paid leave over a period of 12 months to employees affected by domestic violence.
On that date, Ireland will become one of the first countries in the EU to introduce this measure.
Women’s Aid was contracted by the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth to provide information and resources for employers and has developed a Domestic Violence Workplace Policy Template and Guidance Note to assist them in implementing statutory domestic violence leave effectively. The Policy Template can be accessed at this link while the Guidance Note can be accessed here.
Provisions of the Act:
The Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 defines domestic violence as violence, or threat of violence, including sexual violence and acts of coercive control committed against an employee or a relevant person by another person.
Domestic violence may, but does not have to, include physical abuse.
Entitlement to Domestic Violence Leave:
The Act grants employees the right to take domestic violence leave if they are experiencing or have in the past experienced domestic violence or to assist a relevant person who is or has in the past experienced domestic violence to do any of the following:
- seek medical attention,
- obtain services from a victim services organisation,
- obtain psychological or other professional counselling,
- relocate temporarily or permanently,
- obtain an order under the Domestic Violence Act 2018,
- seek advice or assistance from a legal practitioner,
- seek assistance from the Garda Síochána,
- seek or obtain any other relevant services.
For the purposes of eligibility the person who commits domestic violence against an employee or a relevant person must be the spouse or civil partner of the employee or relevant person; be the cohabitant of the employee or relevant person; be or have been in an intimate relationship with the employee or relevant person or be a child of the employee or relevant person who is of full age and is not, in relation to the employee or relevant person, a dependent person.
A relevant person in relation to the employee, is the spouse or civil partner, the cohabitant, a person with whom the employee is in an intimate relationship, a child of the employee who has not attained full age or a dependent person.
There is no service requirement for entitlement to domestic violence leave, and it applies to all employees who have in the past and/or are currently experiencing domestic violence.
Duration of Leave and Notice:
Employees are entitled to up to five days of leave in any period of 12 consecutive months. The employee is to be paid full pay for each day on which the employee is absent from work on domestic violence leave.
Such leave may be availed of by an employee directly experiencing domestic violence and abuse, or where an employee is supporting a ‘relevant person’.
The nature of certain situations requiring domestic violence leave means that advance notice may not be possible. Where advance notice is not possible the employee is still required to notify their employer as soon as is reasonably practicable. Where advance notice is possible, leave can be requested in advance, for example if it is being used to attend a scheduled court hearing.
The Act requires records of domestic violence leave to be kept for a period of three years.
Guidance Note and Domestic Violence Policy:
As mentioned, Women’s Aid has developed a comprehensive Guidance Note and Domestic Violence Policy Template to assist employers in the implementation of domestic violence leave in their organisation. It is recommended that the Guidance Note is read in conjunction with the Policy Template.
To implement domestic violence leave effectively it is recommended that employers develop their own Workplace Domestic Violence Policy which will be specifically suited to their own organisation.
To effectively respond to domestic violence and abuse from a workplace perspective the Guidance Note outlines 3 key principles which underpin the safe and effective implementation of domestic violence leave and these are:
- Maintain confidentiality
- Be employee led
- Lean on existing policies and practices
The policy must be clear in outlining how the employer will maintain confidentiality to allow employees to feel safe talking to someone and seeking support. The sharing of information in relation to domestic violence and abuse without the disclosing employee’s consent may negatively impact their safety and wellbeing. Confidentiality and any limits to it must be considered at all times.
The Guidance Note outlines the areas in which the employer must protect confidentiality to include the sharing of information with others, retaining records following a disclosure, administration of domestic violence leave and documenting domestic violence leave on payslips. It recommends that employers refrain from including any mention of domestic violence leave on payslips. Instead, the recommendation is to code such leave discreetly, with records accessible only to a limited number of staff in a high position of trust and that documentation is stored separately from other files.
Be Employee Led
The employer’s role is to be directed by the needs and wishes of the employee. It is not the employer’s role to “fix” the problem.
A safe and effective method of responding to the employee is to
- Offer options without obliging the employee to accept.
- Ask the employee what they want or need.
The role of the employer is to facilitate the impacted employees’ access to support, whether that is through the provisions of their workplace policy or external services. It is recommended that the employer provides a list of specialist services and workplace contacts if applicable in their policy.
Lean on Existing Policies and Practices
When developing their own workplace policy employers should consider their existing policies and practices and develop their own approach which will be specific to their own business taking into consideration the size and type of business, workplace culture, etc.
Domestic Violence Leave Conclusion:
In conclusion, according to Women’s Aid around 1 in 3 people have experienced at least one form of domestic violence during their working lives therefore it is clear that domestic violence and abuse is a workplace issue and employers have a crucial role in fostering a safe, secure and supportive work environment for those affected by domestic violence and abuse.
This article was written by Mislav Magas, HR Consultant at Action HR Services
Contact any of our consultants if you are in need of expert HR Advice.
The information in this article is provided as part of the Action HR Services Blog. Specific queries should be directed to a member of the Action HR Services Team and it is recommended that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article. This article is correct on 17th November 2023.