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South Ayrshire could be first council in Europe to offer paid leave to victims of domestic abuse

South Ayrshire could be first council in Europe to offer paid leave to victims of domestic abuse

The river Ayr - Image credit: Bernard Blanc via Flickr

A Scottish council could be the first in Europe to offer special leave to employees who are victims of domestic abuse.

Councillors on South Ayrshire Council will vote today on a new ‘safe leave’ policy that will give council employees paid time off to get the support they need for themselves and their families.

It follows a motion from SNP councillor Laura Brenna-Whitefield and Labour councillor Brian McGinley, which was unanimously supported by all 28 councillors in December 2018.

The policy is inspired by New Zealand’s Domestic Violence Victims Protection Bill and it is thought that no other council in Europe has so far introduced such a policy.

It will allow council employees who are victims of domestic abuse to take up to 10 days’ paid safe leave, which can be used as needed based on their individual circumstances.

This could include going to medical appointments or counselling, attending legal proceedings, looking for safe housing or visit support agencies.

Councillor Peter Henderson, South Ayrshire Council’s portfolio holder for resources and performance, said: “Across South Ayrshire, we’re committed to supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities and working with our partners to raise awareness of domestic abuse and violence.

“As part of these efforts, we’re also leading the way in doing what we can to support our employees who experience such trauma.

“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.

“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.

 “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.

“The safe leave policy does just that.

“We believe we’re the first council in Europe to offer safe leave provision and I hope others will follow our example.

“Our people are undoubtedly our best assets and I’m proud that we’re introducing positive and progressive policies that provide increased support to employees at a time when they need it most.

“These include additional paid maternity and paternity leave for parents of premature babies, which is already making a positive difference for employees, and we will continue to do what we can to lead the way and support our people and places.”

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