Taken from Paul’s address to the conference.
People say its complex, I don’t agree, it’s not complex, it’s straight forward.IT’S NEVER OK.
Domestic abuse is everyone’s issue, the answer to tackling it goes beyond statutory authorities and partner agencies, it is everybody’s responsibility – community groups, community leaders and members of the public, businesses and business leaders.
Earlier this year the New Zealand government passed legislation to give victims of domestic abuse a legal right to paid leave in addition to all other leave entitlement. This is a massive step and we in the UK must follow.
We all know financial concerns are a major barrier to survivors leaving an abusive partner. Research shows that many victims lose their job as a result of their experience of domestic abuse or when they are forced to flee their homes. Domestic abuse has devastating consequences and the loss of employment is another barrier to rebuilding a life free from abuse. The fear of losing financial security can also prevent a victim from seeking help or disclosing the abuse to their employer or colleagues. Yet abusers can use the victim’s work as a means of controlling them, the physical and psychological impact of domestic abuse on survivors, can affect their ability to carry out their work often resulting in unexplained lateness and absenteeism.
Often a survivor’s place of work might be the only space where they can get help. Their job might be what sustains them psychologically, this also means it may be the only space away from the abuser where they can speak out safely to someone about the abuse and get the vital support they need.
That’s why survivors must be supported at work to speak out about the abuse and be safe in the knowledge that their job is secure and that they will be supported.
The Government is currently drafting legislation for a Domestic Abuse Bill and I believe legislating for survivors to be able to access additional paid leave is one initiative that would make a real difference. It would help give the security and support needed to leave abusive partners, find a new home and protect themselves and their children.
So, with this, Anita and I will be taking a motion to full council, which I hope receives cross party, unanimous, support calling on the UK government to legislate for paid leave for victims of domestic abuse. However, we don’t need to wait for legislation to mandate us into doing something which is the right thing to do. Which is why I have sought a review of Wirral Council’s Domestic Abuse Policy to ensure that we are doing everything we can to support victims.
Today I am proud to announce that Wirral Council Domestic Abuse Policy will shortly be revised to ensure that all employees who are victims of domestic abuse and/or harmful practices are ENTITLED to a minimum of a week’s special leave, at full pay to ensure that they have time to deal with the consequences of an abusive situation they may find themselves in. This period of leave can be further extended in line with the Council’s Special Leave policy.
I am clear, and so is Wirral council: we are Committed to a zero tolerance approach. Wirral Council is taking the lead with implementing this policy and we would encourage other agencies, organisations and businesses, working in partnership with Sandra Kirkham and Wirral Chamber of Commerce, to adopt the same minimum standard, taking proactive steps to support survivors.
A good response from an employer can transform a survivor’s life. Together, we can give victims the confidence to speak out about abuse and seek support at work when taking brave steps to rebuild their lives free from abuse.