A Scottish council is offering up to 10 days of paid leave for council employees who have experienced domestic violence, reportedly making it the first in Europe to do so.
South Ayrshire councillors voted unanimously in favour of the policy, after a motion was brought by Scottish National Party (SNP) councillor Laura Brenna-Whitefield, and Labour councillor Brian McGinley.
“I feel South Ayrshire is now leading the way and I am really pleased we are the first council to have done this,” said Brenna-Whitefield, reported the Independent. “It is a recognition we are looking after the most vulnerable. I hope other councils and other organisations follow.”
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Survivors will also be supported in attending health care and counselling appointments, with attending legal proceedings, finding safe accommodation, and when visiting support agencies, according to Scottish current affairs magazine Holyrood.
“Giving abused employees access to up to 10 days’ safe leave, where they can take the time off they need to access help and support without the worry of it affecting their finances or using up their annual leave, will make a real and lasting difference that could help change lives forever," Scottish Councillor Peter Henderson said.
“And just by making that support available, it could help give employees the confidence to ask for help and take the first steps towards a safer life for them and their families,” he added.
“Domestic abuse will never be tolerated in South Ayrshire but, sadly, we know it happens and we want to ensure that when it affects our employees we do all we can to support them," Henderson said.
The South Ayrshire initiative is reportedly in line with calls from MPs last year, in a parliamentary report from the Home Affairs Committee that urged “much stronger action” to end domestic violence, and support people who have experienced it.
A further policy that the council has already introduced to help support its employees is additional paid maternity and paternity leave for parents of premature babies, which is “already making a positive difference for employees,” according to Henderson.
The new policy was inspired by a similar initiative in New Zealand — the Domestic Violence Victims Protection Bill — which was passed last July and guarantees survivors 10 days paid leave to help support them through leaving their partners, relocating, and protecting themselves and their children.
New Zealand was only the second country in the world to bring in this change, after the Philippines passed a similar law in 2004.