O'Gorman dismisses suggestion that workers would have to prove abuse to access leave

O'Gorman dismisses suggestion that workers would have to prove abuse to access leave

Roderic O’Gorman speaking at Wednesday's Child in the City world conference in the Printworks, Dublin Castle. Picture: Leah Farrell/Rolling News

Children’s and Equality Minister Roderic O’Gorman has said employees who are victims of sexual or domestic violence will not need to show proof to their boss to access leave.

It comes after business lobbies were slammed by the Government and advocacy groups for objecting to proposed paid leave for victims of domestic abuse and for suggesting that people may falsely claim it.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told the Dáil he was “absolutely appalled” that the business lobby group Ibec objected to the proposal and denied suggestions people would lie about abuse to get the leave.

A new bill proposes to allow five days of annual paid leave for those suffering, or at risk of, domestic violence.

Mr O’Gorman said the model relies on the co-operation of employers.

“One of the provisions we’ll be bringing forward is a review after two years to see how its operating and how we can continue to improve the process,” he said.

“This will require an element of trust between employees and employers.”

Ibec said victims could already take compassionate, ‘force majeure’, or sick leave in these cases and that employers should be permitted to ask for “proof” to avoid any “potential abuse” of paid leave to victims.

Ibec executive director, Maeve McElwee later denied that the organisation will seek “proof”.

She acknowledged that Ibec had raised the issue of proof in a submission to government on the proposed domestic violence leave bill, but said it was from the perspective of how an employer would ask for documentation to fulfil their statutory obligations.

Ms McElwee told RTÉ that if domestic violence leave was a statutory obligation then employers would have a legal responsibility regarding the handling of documents and data protection.

Ibec representatives are appearing before the Oireachtas gender equality committee today to discuss pay and workplace conditions.

Neil McDonnell of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprise Association (ISME) said there is a “serious issue” about liability to pay where domestic violence is concerned.

“Why an employer should be financially liable for what are the criminal actions of another has not been explained, and is morally questionable,” he said.

Mary McDermott, CEO of Safe Ireland, said she was very concerned about Ibec and ISME’s negative reaction to the bill, and was particularly concerned about business lobbies’ request of “proof” from the victim.

“In the case of other traumatic events, like bereavement, proofs are not required and trust in the employee is put forward.

“ISME and Ibec show no understanding of the large-scale social problem domestic violence is if they bring forward these reactions.”

Women’s Aid described Ibec’s position on domestic violence leave as “mean-spirited, distrustful, and defensive”.

It said that paid domestic violence leave in Ireland was a vital support for survivors.

Women’s Aid CEO Sarah Benson said that there is no evidence of misuse of the domestic abuse leave policy in jurisdictions where it is in place.

Recent research shows that more than 1 in 3 (37%) working people surveyed across multiple industries and at varying levels of seniority have experienced domestic abuse.

 

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