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Domestic Violence is a new form of leave that is being introduced as part of the Work Life Balance Act in Ireland, which was passed earlier this year. It is due to be introduced this autumn.

What does the Domestic Violence Leave entail?

Victims of domestic violence are now entitled to 5 days fully paid leave from their workplace. The leave will provide employees the opportunity to access support without impacting on their employment and income. 

Trade unions, employer groups and organisations supporting victims of domestic violence had been consulted in the process to determine the percentage of rate of pay. The leave will cover 100% of an employee’s normal daily pay, which is higher than Statutory Sick Pay which covers 70% of an employee’s normal daily pay. Most legislation has a review clause after four or five years, but this legislation will be reviewed after two years. The duration of leave is likely to be extended after the first review.

How does an employee avail of Domestic Violence Leave?

Given this type of leave is an extremely sensitive topic, the employee does not have to provide any evidence to avail of the leave. The employee will have to disclose the type of leave they are taking to the employer, which will be dealt with in a confidential and supportive manner. If an employer does not cooperate with providing leave then the employee will have recourse through the Workplace Relations Commission.

How should employees manage this type of leave?

The government is currently coinciding with Woman’s Aid to develop a publication of regulations setting out the rate of pay and guidance for employers. The government is commissioning a range of policy supports for employers to gain a greater understanding of how to deal with a situation where an employee seeks this leave or they deal with a wider situation where they become aware that the employee is a victim of domestic violence.

In 2019, Vodafone Ireland announced a new policy that supports employees who have experienced domestic violence or abuse. The policy provides employees with 10 days additional leave, specialist counselling, management training and emergency financial assistance – such as help opening a new bank account and salary advances. The policy was driven by research conducted by Vodafone that 31% of Irish workers experienced some form of domestic abuse, and 57% felt safer at work compared to home. Vodafone’s domestic violence policy was the first comprehensive programme of its kind and should act as guidance for Irish organisations going forward, aligning with the new legislation.

Do other countries currently offer this type of leave?

Ireland is one of the first European countries to bring in paid leave for victims of domestic violence. Aside from Ireland, only Italy, Spain and Northern Ireland are the only countries in Europe to pass laws surrounding domestic violence leave and workplace protections. It is hoped that other European countries will follow Ireland’s call to implement this type of paid leave to aid employees in need.