The Government is to begin the process of introducing paid domestic violence leave early in 2022, a move Women's Aid says will help boost "zero tolerance" of domestic abuse.
Last February, Equality Minister Roderic O'Gorman described paid domestic violence leave as a "personal priority". Now he has stepped up efforts to introduce a statutory entitlement to the leave.
The move comes as the Government will today roll out TV, radio and social media ads reminding victims of domestic violence where they can find support over the Christmas period.
The implementation of paid domestic violence leave would see Ireland following the lead of countries such as New Zealand and the Philippines where those who have experienced domestic violence receive the support to help them end an abusive relationship and find new accommodation.
A spokesperson for the Department of Equality said: "Mr O’Gorman is committed to introducing a statutory entitlement to paid domestic violence leave, and intends to bring forward proposals on this early in the new year.
"To inform these proposals, the department has engaged in a targeted consultation process with relevant stakeholders and social partners to examine how a scheme of paid leave should operate to address the needs of victims most effectively.
"This consultation included the monitoring committee of the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence, employers' groups and trade unions and with stakeholders of the National Equality Strategy Committees."
It said a report based on that work will be brought to Government shortly and will include recommendations on how best to support employees experiencing domestic abuse, including leave.
Sinn Féin’s Enterprise spokesperson Louise O’Reilly said such legislation is long overdue. She told themany companies and institutions have moved ahead of government and introduced their own policies.
“We tabled legislation in 2019 and 2020 that is ready to go, but the Minister decided not to take up our bill. But, I absolutely welcome the move. This legislation is very necessary,” she said.
Ms O'Reilly said her proposal would see those affected paid like any other form of statutory leave, with no loss of earnings. She also said the leave would not need to be taken in one block to allow those women attend court if required.
Women's Aid CEO Sarah Benson said she "warmly welcomed" the move by Mr O'Gorman. "It's wonderful that something now will be put on a statutory footing," she said. "It will show how a workplace and employer can pivot to become an ally, rather than an additional challenge, for someone subject to domestic abuse."
Ms Benson said Women's Aid had long called for such a policy and that implementing it would also help every employer to raise awareness of the availability of leave and of any other supportive policies they can introduce for employees experiencing domestic abuse.
She said there was a "strong economic argument" for such a policy, particularly as the pandemic has placed additional focus on the issue of domestic abuse and the changing face of the workplace.
"We do know also, and I have heard directly from one employer, that with the working from home, they actually started seeing it - they were seeing where someone was under pressure, where there was tension or it was difficult, so it has made it [DV] more visible, it is more likely to be a factor now. The home is the workplace and may remain so post-pandemic, so there is an added incentive to be more vigilant to this."
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Helen McEntee, has said the ‘Still Here’ national awareness campaign on domestic abuse will be relaunched today on TV, radio and social media.
It was first developed in April 2020 and the Minister said: "One measure of the success of this initiative was the increase in the number of files relating to domestic abuse going to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.”