The exact number of people who are victims of domestic violence in Ireland is difficult to determine because many incidents of domestic violence go unreported. However, statistics from Safe Ireland, a national organization that works to end domestic violence, indicate that over 20,000 women and children received support from domestic violence services in Ireland in 2020. This figure represents an increase of 43% from the previous year.
Although legislation, policies and practices have been aiming to prevent, or at least minimise, domestic violence for many years, this is still a very live issue. For many employers, this is a highly sensitive issue that can be difficult to address, with some employers feeling that it may not be their place to intervene in what is perceived as a personal matter.
But what are the employers’ obligations? And what else can we do to tackle this issue, and support our employees who may be victims of domestic violence and abuse?
Do you need help in understanding the legislation and best practices designed to tackle this issue? Then check out this guide, designed to give you a clear and practical overview on domestic violence, from an employer perspective.
P.S. We’ve also got a very useful webinar coming up on this exact topic, on Wednesday 31st May at 11:15. Register here and get it in the diary!
For now though, let’s read on!
What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behaviour that is used by one person to gain and maintain power and control over another person in a domestic setting.
What is the legal framework for domestic violence in Ireland?
The Domestic Violence Act 2018 is the primary legislation in Ireland that deals with domestic violence. The Act provides legal protections for victims of domestic violence, including civil remedies, emergency barring orders, and criminal sanctions.
How can employers spot signs of domestic violence in their employees, in the workplace?
Domestic violence can have a significant impact on an employee’s personal and professional life and can manifest in many different ways.
- Changes in behaviour: Domestic violence can cause significant emotional trauma for the victim. Employees who are experiencing domestic violence may show changes in their behaviour, such as increased absenteeism, lateness, or reduced productivity. They may also exhibit signs of anxiety, depression, or stress. Employees who are experiencing domestic violence may have difficulty concentrating or making decisions. They may also experience difficulty interacting with colleagues and clients.
- Physical signs: If an employee is a victim of domestic violence, they may suffer from physical injuries such as cuts, bruises, broken bones, or other injuries. Physical injuries or bruises that an employee cannot explain or seems to be hiding may indicate domestic violence.
- Harassment or stalking: An employee who is being harassed or stalked by an ex-partner or someone else may exhibit signs of distress or fear.
- Control by partner: An employee’s partner may attempt to exert control over their partner’s work life. This can include preventing their partner from going to work or controlling their finances. In some cases, domestic violence can spill over into the workplace, putting the victim and other employees at risk.
- Isolation from co-workers: An employee who is experiencing domestic violence may become isolated from their co-workers and avoid socializing or participating in team activities.
It is important to note that while these signs may indicate domestic violence, they may also be the result of other personal or work-related issues. Therefore, it is crucial for employers to approach these situations with sensitivity and care. Employers can also provide education and training to their employees about the signs of domestic violence and resources available to those experiencing it.
What is domestic violence leave?
Domestic violence leave is time off work for those who have, or are experiencing, domestic violence. The reason for the leave will largely depend on individual circumstances, such as leaving an abusive situation, going to speak to the guards or a solicitor, or use the time to move out, while the perpetrator is at work themselves. Or it could be used in the aftermath of leaving a situation e.g., to attend court hearings. The reasons for taking/requesting the leave may vary from case to case, as will the employee’s needs. A trusting and open-minded approach, from an employer perspective, is essential.
What is the latest update to domestic violence leave in the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023?
If an employee is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence in the past, they can avail of five days leave in any 12-month period under the new legislation. This leave can also be availed of by an employee in order to assist a relevant person who is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence in the past. A relevant person as defined in the Act is:
- the spouse or civil partner of the employee,
- the cohabitant of the employee,
- a person with whom the employee is in an intimate relationship,
- a child of the employee who has not attained full age, or
- a person who, in relation to the employee, is a dependent person.
The minimum period to be taken is one day. If an employee takes part of a day, this shall be considered one day of leave.
The aim of this new leave is to give the person the chance to seek medical attention, get counselling, relocate or seek advice or assistance from a victim service organisation, a solicitor or An Garda Síochána.
A rate of pay for this leave is yet to be set out by the Minister, so do keep an eye out for developments in this area.
What should employers do to be fully compliant and prepared for this new legislation?
Companies will need to consider how they will look to communicate and implement this leave so that their employee’s feel the value in it, and can avail of it, if ever needed. Introducing this type of leave will not just be about the creation and circulation of a new policy, it will be about the Company’s whole approach to supporting those who are affected by domestic violence.
Companies should look at what reasonable steps they could take to support affected employees. This might include providing information on available support services and making reasonable adjustments to their working arrangements in addition to allowing time off work. Some employers have even provided emergency accommodation for a limited period. No matter what type of support is given, managers or employees who will be providing this support will also need to be trained so they can help effectively.
How can employers ensure that their response to domestic violence is sensitive and appropriate?
Employers can ensure that their response to domestic violence is sensitive and appropriate by creating a workplace culture that values and supports victims of domestic violence. This can be achieved by providing education and training to managers and employees, offering support and resources to victims, and creating a workplace policy that takes into account the unique needs of victims of domestic violence.
And most importantly, it is essential for employers to provide training for their managers on how to handle delicate conversations about domestic violence. This is vital in ensuring that victims of domestic violence do not have a negative experience when discussing the matter with their manager, and that managers are well-equipped to help in the best possible way. If managers feel overwhelmed or unsure about how to respond, this will permeate the employees experience too.
How can employers craft an effective domestic violence leave policy?
Employers can craft an effective domestic violence leave policy by providing clear guidelines for employees who need to take time off work due to domestic violence. The policy should outline the amount of leave available, the documentation required, and the process for requesting leave.
Employers should communicate the policy to all employees, including managers, and ensure that it is easily accessible. It is also important to provide training to ensure that managers understand how to handle domestic violence situations in the workplace.
Typically, a domestic violence policy should include, as laid out by the ICTU Domestic Abuse Guide;
- a policy statement that has clear aims and states the organisation’s commitment to treat domestic abuse seriously;
- a clear definition of domestic abuse an acknowledgement that the majority of victims are women but that men are also affected as are women and men in same-sex relationships;
- a clear statement that the organisation is committed to the principle that domestic abuse and violence is unacceptable behaviour and that everyone has a right to live free from fear;
- a statement that, where domestic abuse occurs or has the potential to occur in the workplace, the paramount consideration of the employer is to ensure the health and well-being of employees and to ensure that, where appropriate, perpetrators of abuse are challenged and held to account to reduce the potential for re-offending;
- details of the first point of contact for employees who need to discuss issues around domestic abuse;
- a commitment to early intervention by identifying ways of creating a supportive environment and to creating confidential mechanisms for employees experiencing domestic abuse to seek help and information in order to empower them to make their own decisions;
- a commitment to offering ongoing support to employees experiencing domestic abuse including time off, for example, for counselling, visits to a solicitor or support agencies, for re-housing or re-organising childcare;
- the possibility of relocation or redeployment where this would be appropriate and supportive of the employee;
- a commitment to training and educating on domestic abuse issues. This might involve some basic awareness training for all staff and more detailed training for certain staff e.g. personnel or welfare staff;
- provision of resources within the workplace, such as posters, leaflets etc to raise awareness about the domestic abuse helpline and other support services; and
- mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing the policy’s effectiveness and for regularly updating information on help available and how to contact support services.
Overall, an effective domestic violence leave policy should prioritise the safety and well-being of survivors while ensuring compliance with legal requirements and creating a supportive workplace culture.
How should employers handle disclosures of domestic violence and manage the reporting of same, if done in work?
Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their employees feel safe and supported in the workplace. If an employee discloses that they are experiencing domestic violence, the employer should take appropriate steps to ensure their safety and provide appropriate support.
Here are some steps that employers can take when handling disclosures of domestic violence:
- Listen actively and offer support: Employers should listen carefully to what the employee is saying and provide them with empathy and support. Let the employee know that their safety is a priority, and that the employer is there to help.
- Maintain confidentiality: Employers should keep the employee’s disclosure confidential and only share the information on a need-to-know basis. This will help to protect the employee’s privacy and prevent any further harm.
- Provide resources and referrals: Employers should provide the employee with information about resources and support services that are available to them. This may include referrals to domestic violence hotlines, counselling services, and legal aid.
- Develop a safety plan: Employers can work with the employee to develop a safety plan that will help them stay safe both in and outside of the workplace. This may include providing the employee with a secure workspace, changing their work schedule, or arranging for security escorts to and from work.
- Take appropriate disciplinary action: If the domestic violence occurred in the workplace, employers should take appropriate disciplinary action against the perpetrator. This may include termination of employment if necessary.
Overall, it is essential for employers to take domestic violence seriously and provide appropriate support to employees who are experiencing it. By taking a proactive approach and working with employees to ensure their safety, employers can help to create a safe and supportive workplace environment.
Employers should also be conscious of providing support to employees to whom the incidents or abuse is reported, to ensure their worries for the interests of their colleagues do not overwhelm them and cause any personal or work-related issues.
What other supports can employers offer to employees who are victims of domestic violence?
Employers can support employees who are victims of domestic violence by providing access to confidential support services, such as an employee assistance program or a domestic violence helpline. Employers can also offer flexible working arrangements, such as working from home or adjusting work hours, to help employees manage the impact of domestic violence on their personal lives.
How can Insight HR help you?
Insight HR has the experience and expertise to ensure that your employment contracts, policies and procedures, are compliant, effective, and fit-for-purpose. At Insight HR, we provide consultation, advice and guidance on your organisation’s level of compliance with current legislation. Our partnership approach is also future-focused, ensuring your policies and procedures protect your business and your people, long-term.
“With Insight HR, your investment will never just be about fixing a problem or developing a strategy. Instead, our partnership approach arms teams with the knowledge they need to make better decisions. We leave HR teams better informed and more confident in their abilities to resolve future HR issues.”
Mary Cullen, Founder and Managing Director at Insight HR
Do you need further guidance on this topic? Do you want to hear additional insights and ask questions directly to the experts?
Join the Insight HR team and special guests, Catherine O’Flynn, Head of Employment & Benefits Department at WILLIAM FRY LLP and Naoimh Murphy, Communications & Training Officer at Amber Womens Refuge for our next webinar, Domestic Violence: Policies, Legislation and Support, which takes place on Wednesday 31st May.
What will we be discussing?
- The latest legislation
- Available supports
- Employer obligations
- And much more!
This free webinar will equip you with the information, skills, and confidence to effectively navigate this sensitive topic!
Book your space today before you miss out!
And for further guidance and discussion on these topics, and advice and support on anything HR-related, get in touch with us today at 0567701060 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.