New Irish policy: Supporting staff affected by domestic violence

Supporting staff affected by domestic violence

A new piece of Irish legislation is introducing increased responsibilities for employers. This is around how they support employees dealing with domestic violence and abuse issues at home.

The Work-Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 comes into force on Monday, November 27, 2023. This includes a new requirement for employers to offer up to five days paid leave to those affected by domestic violence. This new ‘Statutory Domestic Violence Leave’ can be taken over a period of 12 months and has been designed to help vulnerable people cope with what can be an extremely stressful situation in their lives.

Domestic violence and abuse occur when a person tries to gain and maintain power and control over their current or former partner, or in some cases a family member. They use multiple patterns of intimidation, isolation, manipulation, coercion and assault.

It can take many forms, and can be physical, emotional, sexual, economic and can include coercive control. Abuse rarely takes just one form; perpetrators use different tactics as part of a larger pattern of controlling and abusive behaviour. Importantly, physical abuse does not always have to be a factor in abusive relationships.

It’s thought that around one in three people are subjected to domestic abuse during their working lives. This creates problems for the person involved in many aspects of their lives. The impact at work can be significant.

On top of a great deal of personal stress, the person may find themselves dealing with more absenteeism and lateness, decreased productivity and significantly reduced workplace moral. While many employers already have good practices and supports in place to help staff deal with challenges in their personal lives, this new legislation changes that. It means for the first time all companies are obliged to have comprehensive policies in place for the specific challenges posed by domestic violence.

What does this mean for Irish Employers?

This legislation means if you are an Irish employer, you are required to provide domestic violence leave to employees who have been or are currently being subjected to domestic violence.

To implement domestic violence leave effectively, it is recommended that employers embed this support measure within a wider organisational response to domestic abuse, outlined in a workplace domestic violence policy.

There is no one ‘type of person’ who is more or less likely to be subjected to domestic violence and abuse. A person of any age, nationality, ability, religion, socioeconomic status, and other factors can be subjected to violence and abuse by an ex-/partner or family member.

This underlines the importance that the provisions of a workplace response to domestic abuse are made available to all employees who seek it. It is recommended that domestic violence leave is implemented as part of a wider organisational response to domestic violence, ideally as part of a workplace domestic abuse policy.

Putting together such a policy can be challenging but a number of groups including Women’s Aid, supported by Vodafone HR, have come together to help make support materials available to the public.

Support materials

Women’s Aid was contracted by the Department of Children, Equality, Integration, Disability and Youth (DCEIDY). They help Irish businesses looking to put together policies and support materials for their staff. There is a new website which contains all the information business leaders might need.

Located at www.DVatWork.ie, this new site hosts support materials and services for employers developing domestic violence and abuse policies, including guidelines on how to prepare a policy template and guidance note, and how to access email support services for employers.

There are also a series of 1.5hr Zoom-based free information sessions scheduled for employers. These are due to start on November 15, 2023 and continue through to March 2024. You can sign up here.

Training

Women’s Aid recognises that training is a key element in the development of a workplace response to domestic violence and abuse. On November 28, 2023, they are holding a training session on Recognising and Responding to Domestic Abuse in the Workplace, which is open to staff of organisations with 150 employees or fewer.

There are further resources available online for employers, along with downloadable resources suitable for distribution in the workplace. For further information or to register, please visit this page: Recognising and Responding to Domestic Abuse in the Workplace.

To read more about supporting employees and ensuring their wellbeing, you can explore our Knowledge Centre here. You can also speak one-to-one to our VHUB advisors on a range of digital topics, pick a time that suits you here.

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