Council ‘leading the way’ with paid leave for domestic abuse victims

A council which approved a groundbreaking policy to support employees who are victims of domestic abuse has been praised for “leading the way”.

South Ayrshire Council unanimously approved the plans to give workers up to 10 days paid “safe leave”, allowing them time to get help and support for themselves and their families.

It cites “New Zealand’s world leading Victims’ Protection Bill” that was introduced last year and requires employers to give victims of domestic violence leave that is separate from annual holiday and sick leave.

It is thought to be the first local authority in Europe to do so.

Elizabeth, a survivor of domestic abuse who did not wish to be identified, said the policy was “vital”.

She detailed her own experiences which left her feeling “shattered” and explained the importance of having the safe leave policy in place.

The 26-year-old from South Ayrshire said: “I was going out with someone for a few years. I lived with them previously so straight off we were living together.

“A couple of years into the relationship I realised how bad things had got, I had a bit of an epiphany moment and was like ‘wow….this is not okay’.

“If you are spending a long time trying to get away from an issue like this by the time you get out you’re absolutely shattered.

“You are worried you’re going to lose your job, worried about moving home, losing all of the friend groups you’ve set up and the stigma that’s still attached to it.

“You’re worried about trying to fit in your doctor’s appointments, counsellors, therapists. Trying to sort out your life basically and get your life back and on top of all that you’re absolutely shattered.

“Having some time off and knowing you’ve got that ahead of you gives you some security that you’ve got that time to do what you need to do to get your life back on track again.”

The leave can be used however the employees require, allowing victims to get medical help and counselling, attend legal proceedings, seek support or look for safe accommodation.

South Ayrshire Women’s Aid, which moved to a more private location in the town centre three years ago, has welcomed the move and is to help with the training aspect.

Service manager Hazel Bingham said: “The council have embraced this legislation on the back of what happened in New Zealand… and passed this into their own policies as well which is amazing because it’s so important that people who are subjected to domestic abuse are able to have time off paid.

“We’d like to see every council in Scotland taking this up and not just councillors – we’d like to see every employer looking at their policies.

“We will be training managers, whoever’s got the responsibility where an employee would go to to ask for this leave, we will train those people to fully understand the complexities of domestic abuse.”

It is hoped the policy will come into effect from as early as Monday.

Councillor Laura Brennan-Whitefield, one of the representatives to put forward the motion, said other organisations as well as Women’s Aid were “very pleased” at the policy’s roll-out.

She said: “For me that it was unanimously agreed at full council shows that this issue is now on people’s radar.

“In my moving of the motion I talked a lot about psychological abuse, mental abuse which is often hidden and isn’t connected in the same way physical abuse has been over the years.

“People associate domestic abuse with physical violence so I think the fact we’re now engaging our managers in this process… is really positive.

“I’m very proud we’re the first council to do it as well, I feel like we’re leading the way and hopefully other organisations follow and that there’s a momentum around this.”

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