Employees to receive full rate of pay while on domestic violence leave
Irish employees have secured a significant entitlement to paid domestic violence leave, allowing them five days within a 12-month period at their full rate of pay. Domestic violence leave was introduced as a crucial provision within the Work Life Balance Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023. Employers will receive support and templates to draft domestic violence policies, recognising the sensitivity required when addressing this issue in the workplace.
Domestic violence, as defined in this context, encompasses various forms of violence or threats, including sexual violence and coercive control, targeting employees or relevant individuals. The perpetration of domestic violence can stem from a person in specific relationships with the employee or relevant individuals, including spouses, civil partners, cohabitants, those in intimate relationships, or adult children of the employee or relavent individual who are not considered dependants.
This groundbreaking domestic violence leave, as established under the Parental Leave Acts, grants employees the right to five days of paid leave within a 12-month period, without any mandatory service requirement. Previously, there were uncertainties regarding the rate of pay for this leave, but it has now been confirmed that it will be provided at the employee's full pay rate.
The primary aim of this leave is to empower employees enduring domestic violence by allowing them to:
1. Seek medical assistance.
2. Access services from victim support organizations.
3. Receive counseling.
4. Temporarily or permanently relocate.
5. Seek legal advice or assistance.
6. Request aid from the Garda Síochána.
7. Obtain a safety order from the courts.
Furthermore, eligibility for domestic violence leave extends to employees assisting a relevant person in accessing these support services. A relevant person includes a spouse, dependent child, or cohabitant.
Notably, domestic violence leave can be applied for retrospectively, without the need for excessive documentation. Employees must, however, notify their employers "as soon as reasonably practicable" after taking the leave, using the prescribed form to indicate the dates on which they utilized the leave.
In an effort to ensure the accessibility to this leave to those in need, the 2023 Act does not grant employers the authority to refuse an employee’s request for such leave. Employers should be aware that they cannot request documentary evidence to support employees' leave applications. While on domestic violence leave, employees maintain their full employment rights, including annual leave accrual and entitlement to public holidays during the leave period.
Employees seeking domestic violence leave or those who have already taken it are protected against penalization under the Parental Leave Acts. This protection includes safeguarding against dismissal, unfair treatment, or unfavorable changes to employment conditions. The maximum award in favor of an employee who has been penalized under these Acts is 20 weeks' remuneration. In cases of dismissal, employees can file a claim under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2015, where the maximum compensation is 2 years' remuneration.
To ensure transparency and compliance, employers are required to maintain records of domestic violence leave taken by their employees, including the period of employment and the dates on which the leave was used. These records must be retained for a period of three years.
About the author: Sinéad Leahy is a Trainee Solicitor with Dermot G. O’Donovan Solicitors.