New Zealand, perhaps surprisingly, has the highest rate of domestic violence in the world. To combat this, a new policy has been introduced that offers victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave to help facilitate leaving abusive situations. This is significant as one of the most dangerous times for a victim of domestic abuse is when they try to leave. By giving victims 10 days of paid leave, the idea is that this will, hopefully, give them (and any children) time to leave their abusive situation surreptitiously (i.e. when their abuser is out of the house) and then provide some time for them to start to settle elsewhere.
The chief executive of Women’s Aid, Katie Ghose, has said, regarding this new policy: “By making it a legal requirement for employees to provide paid leave for domestic abuse survivors, this [will] send out the powerful message to survivors that their employment will be secure and they will be financially supported if they flee the abuse. This will help give more women the confidence to speak out about abuse and seek support when taking the brave step to leave an abusive partner and rebuild their life free from abuse.”
The UK government consulted on a new Domestic Abuse Bill between March and May this year, the results of which are still being compiled. The bill as currently drafted does not contain any provision for paid leave for domestic abuse victims. However, in light of New Zealand’s policy, there are now calls, from MPs as well as groups advocating to reduce levels of domestic violence, for such paid leave to be included.
Given how busy the government currently is with Brexit, this is, unfortunately, unlikely be a high priority. However, in principle, a policy that provides for paid leave for domestic abuse victims could provide significant assistance. This would, however, be at the cost of businesses, unless provisions for subsidies are provided. This in turn prompts the question of whether it is the role of employers to help victims of domestic abuse? And if not employers, who?