The Parental Leave Act 1998 was amended to include an employee entitlement to five days of employer-paid leave at 100% of salary. The employee may use the leave when they, or a “relevant person” to them, has suffered or is suffering from domestic violence or a threat of violence. This includes sexual violence and acts of coercive control. A relevant person is defined as the employee’s spouse or civil partner, their cohabitant, their child or dependent, or someone who is in an intimate relationship with the employee.
This leave allows the employee to engage in or assist with any of the following for themselves or a relevant person:
- Seek medical attention
- Obtain services from a victim services organization
- Obtain psychological or other professional counselling
- Relocate temporarily or permanently
- Obtain a court order
- Seek advice or assistance from a legal practitioner
- Seek assistance from the police
- Seek or obtain any other relevant services
Advance notice to the employer is required where possible; where it is not possible, notice must be given as soon as practically feasible. Employees are not mandated to provide evidence of domestic violence to take this leave. Domestic violence leave is available to both fixed-term and part-time employees and there is no minimum service requirement. The five days of leave are available once in any 12-month period and the leave must be taken in minimum one-day increments.
Records and employment protection
Employers are required to maintain records regarding domestic violence leave for three years, including the dates of the leave taken by each employee as well as their employment period. Employers are prohibited from penalizing employees for taking this leave, including taking actions such as dismissal, demotion, loss of a promotion opportunity, and any other unfair treatment. Employers found in violation with the Workplace Relations Commission may be required to pay up to 20 weeks of gross salary where the employee is not dismissed and up to two years of gross salary if the employee has been dismissed. While on domestic violence leave, employees retain all their employment rights and continue to accrue their annual leave.
Employers should amend their internal leave policies and employment contracts accordingly and consider a strategy to better communicate this special leave. The Irish government in collaboration with the Women’s Aid has published a workplace Policy Template to support employers in creating internal domestic violence policies.