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Four Irish Universities to Introduce Domestic Leave for Staff

By Ciara Browne, Deputy News Editor

This article contains mentions of domestic violence and abuse. If you feel you may be triggered, please skip this article.

    A number of third-level institutions have committed to introducing a domestic violence leave policy for staff in 2022. This comes after NUIG announced in May 2021 that all staff members experiencing domestic violence or abuse would be granted 10 working days of paid leave.

    Trinity College, University College Cork (UCC), University College Dublin (UCD) and Dublin City University (DCU) have all committed to introducing and implementing similar policies for 2022, following a request from Simon Harris, Minister of Further Education.

    Minister Harris said that, “the introduction of the domestic violence leave policy marks a critical step forward in ensuring that higher education institutions are safe and supportive workplaces” and went on to commend NUIG for initiating the important conversation across third level while adding that he is “pleased to see others following.” 

    The new implementation of paid days leave when in a situation of domestic violence or abuse could be crucial in ensuring that the victims retain their employment and have the economic capacity to escape an abusive relationship.

    ​Minister Simon Harris wrote to every college in Ireland in June 2021 urging them to follow suit. In the letter, seen by the PA news agency, he wrote: “The purpose of the policy is to provide for a period of paid time away from work for staff members who have suffered or are suffering from domestic violence or abuse”, and went on to lament how, “our institutions have a duty of care to their staff.” This policy will build on and compliment the work that is ongoing across our higher education system to tackle sexual violence and harassment across Ireland. Domestic violence does not just have a major impact on the victim and their family, it can also have a significant impact on the person’s working life and wellbeing.

    Harris warned that domestic violence remains “a pervasive problem in our society” and reports have noted that cases have increased rapidly during the global pandemic of COVID19. Figures from 2020 show that Gardaí received 43,000 calls to respond to domestic abuse incidents, a 16% increase on 2019. In recent studies, nearly 15% of women between the ages of 18-74 have experienced physical and sexual violence in their lifetime, and almost 31% have experienced psychological violence. While the risk to women is higher, domestic abuse also affects a significant number of men in Ireland.

    ​Safe Ireland has released many statistics and reports on domestic abuse and violence in Ireland. Domestic abuse is a serious and pervasive problem which has devastating consequences for the victim, family, friends and the wider work community.  Almost one third of all women across the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. 1 in 3 women in Ireland have experienced psychological violence from a partner or male authoritative figure, and 1 in 8 men have also experienced such violence from a partner.

    ​A vast body of research has unequivocally established the impacts of domestic violence and/or abuse on women and men’s physical, and mental health. The physical effects are bruising, lacerations and burns, cuts and broken bones, or, in severe cases, more serious injuries leading to disability. Domestic violence does not have to be physical, it can be a silent killer. It can take many forms including emotional and psychological abuse and the impacts can be as, if not more, severe and long lasting for the victim.

    ​Physical health can too be affected by domestic violence/abuse, with the lasting effects of trauma possibly causing physical problems throughout life. Undergoing trauma or witnessing trauma are associated with a risk of: cardio-vascular disease, arteriosclerosis or hypertension, arthritis, obesity, and diabetes.

     ​Men and women who have experienced domestic violence/abuse also report higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, low self-esteem, self-harm and suicide attempts.

    ​In severe cases, domestic violence/abuse can lead to poverty and homelessness. Domestic abuse and poverty are intricately interwoven. Costs borne by the victim because of the violence or abuse they experience include health care costs, housing and shelter costs, and legal costs. These can force victims into poverty making it more difficult to heal and to reduce the effects of the abuse/violence. Domestic violence and abuse can directly lead to homelessness too for both men and women, and often children. When the victim decides that the abuse cannot continue, unfortunately, when sufficient services are not available, the victim is forced with the decision to stay in the abusive setting of their home, or leave and be homeless.

    ​By implementing the Domestic Leave for Staff, Harris is declaring that this gives the victims a chance to deal with their mental and physical health, while also having a guarantee of being paid for these days to have emergency money to reduce poverty and homelessness amongst victims.

Source : Irish Examiner