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Domestic violence leave laws are effective in countries like Australia and Ireland, so why not the UK?

Domestic violence impacts one in four women in England and Wales and affects every area of a victim-survivor’s existence; not just their personal life. That’s why governments across the world are acknowledging the significant impact this violence can have on women in the workplace.

In February, new legislation came into effect in Australia which entitles workers to 10 days paid leave for family and domestic violence. Ministers estimate that 7 million employees who work for large or medium businesses – including casuals – will have access to the new right.

“Workers should never have to choose between their safety and wages,” said Tony Burke, Australian Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.

“Paid family and domestic violence leave is a workplace entitlement that will save lives. The measure will allow victims of family violence to take time off work without losing income and without losing their jobs.” 

It represents a significant step forward in building more effective and accessible workplace supports for domestic violence victim-survivors. Providing access to 10 days paid leave annually provides important recognition that employers have a responsibility to support victim-survivors during and in their recovery from violence.

But what about the UK?

How does domestic violence impact women in the UK workforce?

A 2019 study detailed the significant impacts of domestic violence upon women in the UK workforce. It found that female victim-survivors of domestic abuse potentially loss up to £5,800 in earning annually due to the negative impacts of abuse on their career progression. From an employer’s perspective, the economic costs of domestic abuse on businesses are staggering. The Vodafone and KPMG study estimated that UK businesses lose £316 million in economic output each year as result of work absences related to domestic abuse.

In October 2022, one study surveyed 3,000 victim-survivors of domestic and family violence in Australia. Of these, a staggering 2,515 said that their job was impacted by their experience of DVF in the following ways:

  • 1 in 2 say that DFV negatively impacted their career progression and opportunities.
  • 2 in 3 say that DFV impacted their ability to concentrate at work.
  • 2 in 5 say that DFV impacted their productivity and ability to enjoy their job.
  • 1 in 3 say that DFV led them to socially withdraw from co-workers.
  • 1 in 4 say that DFV impacted their punctuality for work.

“Understanding the link between DFV and reduced work performance is essential to inform workplace support practice and policies, ensuring that victim-survivors are not subjected to performance management or at risk of demotion or employment termination,” said Professor Fitz-Gibbon, co-author of the Monash University study.

How do UK workplaces help women experiencing domestic abuse?

Unlike Australia, presently there is no national legislation in England, Wales or Scotland which prescribes paid domestic abuse leave. There are examples of UK based companies and Councils in Scotland that offer paid domestic abuse leave, however, it is not available universally. In the UK, this is often called ‘safe leave’.

Which other countries offer paid domestic violence leave?

In April 2022, Northern Ireland passed legislation which entitles domestic abuse victims to up to 10 days of paid leave per year. Later that year in September, the Republic of Ireland approved the publication of a bill that will allow victims up to five days leave annually.

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