News & Media

Government must consider providing paid leave for victims of domestic violence

27 May 2021

Statement by Senator Annie Hoey
Spokesperson on Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science

Welcoming NUI Galway’s move to become the first institute of higher education to launch a Domestic Abuse Leave policy, Labour Senator Annie Hoey said Government must stand to attention and consider the implementation of such leave in employment law. Senator Hoey reiterated the call to introduce a dedicated Minister with responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.

Senator Hoey said:

“This is a landmark decision and an important move for workers in all sectors. The Government must engage and outline a practical plan to help women and men experiencing domestic violence. It’s very important to give victims of domestic abuse time off work, as it not only acknowledges the seriousness of domestic violence as an issue, but positively works to tackle people's risk of poverty or unemployment as a result.

"Labour called for the introduction of paid leave for people experiencing or who have experienced domestic abuse both in our general election 2020 manifesto, and our more recent women’s manifesto launched on International Women’s day 2021. I sincerely hope that more higher education institutions – and indeed all work places – learn from their innovation.

“Both men and women experience domestic abuse but this issue disproportionately affects women. One in three women experience domestic violence globally. According to Safe Ireland, 1,970 women and 411 children received support from a domestic violence service each month since the onset of the pandemic (March to August inclusive). Lockdowns, particularly level 5 restrictions, have been a dangerous time for women and children living with their abuser.

“Domestic abuse can exist in many forms: physical, emotional, financial, mental, sexual, psychological, and it’s impact perpetuates all aspects of family life. It needs to be given adequate attention. Many groups called on Government to include a commitment to introducing a dedicated Minister with responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, and I call on Government to reflect on this now.

“Unfortunately providing paid leave is just one aspect of policy that needs to be addressed to protect victims of domestic abuse. Our broken housing crisis is trapping women in particular into abusive situations, rather than risking homelessness. If a woman lives with her abuser, escaping a domestic abusive relationship often means facing into homelessness.

“Victims of domestic abuse exist in a hidden form of homelessness that is not addressed in national homeless figures. Domestic abuse refuges offer amazing support to women and children facing into these situations, but spaces are limited. Between March and August 2020, 441 women were admitted to a domestic abuse refuge, Safe Home, or Supported Housing. However, there were an additional 1,351 unmet requests for refuge due to a lack of space. Many women may feel pressure to remain in an abusive home in order to avoid homelessness.

“Roma and Traveller women are particularly vulnerable here. According to Pavee-Point, Traveller and Roma women are at high risk of re-victimisation and are highly vulnerable to being forced to remain or return to a violent relationship, or risk becoming homeless. Traveller women account for the largest group in Women’s Manifesto Page 33 admissions to refuges with 49% of refuge admissions being Travellers and 57% of Traveller women recorded as repeat admissions in 2017.

“Prior to the negotiation of the Programme for Government, organisations in the sector called for a dedicated Minister with responsibility for domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Labour supported those calls at the time, and still believe that we missed the chance during government formation talks to develop a more targeted approach to addressing domestic and gender-based violence. NUI Galway must be commended for their compassionate and proactive approach to supporting victims of domestic violence. Government must follow their lead.”