Rachel Woods MLA invites your views on the Private Member's Bill that she is developing at present.

The purpose of the Bill is to introduce paid leave from work for victims and survivors of domestic abuse. 

This consultation seeks to inform stakeholders and the general public of Rachel’s intention to bring forward a Domestic Abuse Leave Bill, and gather as many views as possible to help shape the legislative proposals.

The consultation will be open for 8 weeks, from 1st December 2020 to 29th January 2021.

If you have any questions, comments, or require an alternative, accessible format in order to respond to this consultation please email domesticabuseleavebill@gmail.com.

Victims and survivors of domestic abuse are faced with a wide range of practical issues and concerns when they try to seek help. People often turn to support organisations, and may need to look for emergency refuge or housing, to remove their children from the family home, or to seek financial and legal advice. They may need to apply for an emergency protection order, or spend time giving evidence to the police and the courts in relation to criminal proceedings against the perpetrator.

Victims and survivors may also require urgent medical treatment and other healthcare services to deal with the medium to long-term effects of trauma resulting from domestic abuse.

Many of these needs are not being met, and victims and survivors continue to face barriers to accessing help because they are not entitled to paid leave from work.

Victims and survivors do not determine when and how abuse occurs; and for some, their ability to seek help is a matter of life and death. Many employees suffering through abuse will not have holidays to take; nor will they have a flexible working option within their contracts. They may also have to contend with a work place rota that cannot be changed. Their only option then is to take unpaid leave, face the threat of losing their job or end up at a tribunal because of their absence.

Paid leave would support victims and survivors of domestic abuse by giving them the opportunity to seek help, access services, and by providing the reassurance that they will not lose out financially or face any disciplinary action for taking much needed time off work.

Many victims and survivors of domestic abuse experience coercive control of their finances; psychological or emotional harm; and have been made to feel subordinate to, or dependent upon, the perpetrator.

Many people suffer from isolation, restrictions on their freedom and monitoring of their day-to-day activities. Very often they feel trapped, hopeless and unable to do anything about the abuse. 

Providing a statutory provision for paid leave goes some way toward mitigating the harmful effects that abusive behaviour can have on a victim or survivor’s capacity to seek help. For those suffering from economic abuse, it ensures that taking time off work to get help will not incur the cost of not being in work.

The reassurance of knowing that time off will not affect income, and will not incur penalties or disciplinary action, will empower victims and survivors, encourage them to seek the help and support that is available, and overcome some of the obstacles that contribute to a continuing sense of isolation and entrapment. 

At present, there are no statutory rights under employment law in Northern Ireland that provide for paid leave where the employee is a victim or survivor of domestic abuse. As has been implemented in other jurisdictions, most notably New Zealand, this Private Member’s Bill seeks to introduce such legislative provision; and will complement the creation of a new domestic abuse offence in Northern Ireland through the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Bill.

It is anticipated that this will greatly enhance public awareness of domestic abuse, further protect victims and strengthen the response of law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. This Private Member’s Bill will work alongside the new legislative framework to help enable and empower victims/survivors, as well as giving them the time and space they need to seek help, access services, and deal with the long-term effects of the trauma that they have experienced.

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1. Do you agree that victims/survivors of domestic abuse should be entitled to paid leave?

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2. Do you believe that paid leave for victims/survivors of domestic abuse should be enshrined in law?

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3. Do you agree that victims/survivors of domestic abuse face barriers to accessing support services because of work?

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4. Do you agree that many victims/survivors of domestic abuse are concerned about how seeking help and attempting to change their circumstances will affect their financial situation?

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5. Do you agree that paid leave for victims/survivors of domestic abuse will enable them to seek help?

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6. Do you agree that paid leave for victims/survivors of domestic abuse will improve their ability to access emergency and specialist support services?

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7. Do you agree that paid leave for victims/survivors of domestic abuse will help them access healthcare services, treatment and therapy to deal with the long-term effects of abuse?