By Cate McCurry, PA
Paid domestic violence leave should be based on an “honour” system, rather than forcing victims to prove they are entitled to leave through a doctor’s sick note, an Oireachtas committee has been told.
Dr Laura Bambrick, head of Social Policy and Employment Affairs at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), said that victims of domestic violence should be taken for their word when requesting time off from work.
Legislation has been tabled by by Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly which would give domestic violence survivors a statutory entitlement to 10 days’ paid leave.
The Organisation of Working Time (Domestic Violence Leave) Bill is due to go before committee again in the coming weeks.
The Cabinet has also approved a draft Bill by the Minister for Children, Roderic O’Gorman, that would entitle those who have experienced domestic violence to 10 days leave.
It forms part of the proposed Word Life Balance Bill, and is part of the Government’s plan to bring the EU’s work-life balance directive into Irish law.
Dr Bambrick told the Joint Committee on Gender Equality that where there is no cost to an employer, it should be based on an “honour” system.
“It’s been reported that while the employer will pay for your leave for domestic violence, there will be a clawback and government will pay that,” she added.
“The reason why employers will be asked to pay for it is so that you get that payment in your next payroll, and that doesn’t become a barrier for you to take leave.
“If there’s no actual out-of-pocket cost to the employer, we think it should be based on an honour system, that I go to my employer and I say I need to exercise my right for domestic leave, whether it’s a half day to see my solicitor or see about alternative accommodation.
“It should be an honour system, that I’m taken from for my word.
“There’s going to be systems in place with this Bill, where we look back after a year to see how it works, so there will be an opportunity (to review it).
“I think going forward in the first instance, especially where there isn’t going to be an out-of-pocket cost for employers, let’s move on and start with an honour system, and we can look back a year.”
David Joyce, equality officer at ICTU, said that paid domestic violence leave is an important issue.
He said under the International Labour Organisation convention, member states are required to take action to recognise the effects of domestic violence.
“The (Children’s) department is currently involved in a consultation on ratification of that convention and we will be doing a submission and we welcome the signals that they intend to ratify before the end of this year,” Mr Joyce said.
“The issue of the 10days leave is really welcome. I agree that in insofar as is practical, providing proof in this instance is not really the way to go.”
Meanwhile, Dr Bambrick also said that the so-called living wage should be set at 66 per cent of the median wage.
In June, the Government unveiled plans to introduce a living wage at 60 per cent of the median wage in any given year.
This will bring the national minimum wage of €10.50 per hour up to €12.17 per hour.
It will be phased in from next year and continue until 2026.
However, Dr Bambrick said that 60 per cent of the median wage is hitting the poverty line, whereas 66 per cent is at the low income line.
“If you are earning below two-thirds of the median wage, you are considered by all of the research and statistician agencies, both national and international, to be a low income worker,” she added.
“If our goal is to eradicate low pay from the economy, the living wage should be at 66 per cent median wage.
“The benefit of that is at 66 per cent median wage, it is very close to what the level is for the ‘basket of goods’.
“We’ll be pegging it to a fixed threshold approach, and we know at that level, it will be both high enough to eradicate low pay from the Irish economy and in turn the EU, and will also be sufficient to provide that minimum essential standard of living.”