Need to prove domestic abuse to secure paid leave would make legislating ‘almost unworkable’, says Varadkar

TD ‘absolutely appalled’ by Ibec raising concerns about paid leave for victims of domestic abuse

Requiring a person to prove they have been a victim of domestic abuse to secure paid leave from work would make legislation in the area “almost unworkable”, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar, the Minister for Enterprise, was responding to a report that employers’ group, the Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (Ibec), raised a number of concerns about Government plans to bring in a law allowing five days of paid sick leave for domestic abuse victims.

Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly, who has proposed her own legislation calling for 10 days’ paid sick leave for victims, raised the contents of an Ibec submission on the Government proposals with Mr Varadkar at a meeting of the Oireachtas enterprise committee.

She referred to an Irish Independent report which said Ibec has objected to plans to introduce paid leave for domestic abuse and outlined how a submission it made stated that employers should have the right to ask for proof of domestic abuse.


Ms O’Reilly said advocacy groups have been clear on the issue of proof, adding: “I mean what is a victim supposed to do, come in with their black eye?”

The Dublin Fingal TD asked Mr Varadkar for his view on the issue. He said he had not seen the article or the observations from Ibec and that the legislation was being worked on by Minister for Equality Roderic O’Gorman.

But he said: “I’d be inclined to agree with you. I don’t really see how you could produce proof of abuse or coercive control in particular, which is quite hard to prove.”

The Fine Gael leader said this might be possible in a court, but that an employer is not a court.

“I’m sure there’ll have to be some sort of mechanism as there is for any form of leave, whether it’s sick leave or maternity benefit or paternity benefit, but I don’t see how evidential proof could be a requirement in the legislation,” he said. “I think that would make it almost unworkable.”

In a statement, Ibec said it “fully supports measures to support anyone who is a victim of domestic violence”.

“However, there are significant legal and practical implications for both employers and victims of domestic violence that will arise should a statutory right to domestic violence leave be introduced.”

Ibec said these were set out in submission to Department of Equality last year on proposals to introduce domestic violence leave.

“The questions and concerns Ibec has raised with the department include a request for clarity on how a statutory framework could be implemented in order to support employers and vulnerable employees.”

Speaking later in the Dáil, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said a tender for support services for employers to develop a domestic leave policy would be issued in the coming days.

He said it was very difficult for a person to have to say they need leave because of domestic abuse and he called for a sensitive approach. “It’s not as if people are going to use this as some sort of excuse.”

He was responding to Social Democrats TD Jennifer Whitmore, who said she was “absolutely appalled” to learn that Ibec had raised concerns about paid leave for victims of domestic abuse. She said asking people to prove they had suffered was “retraumatising” and called for assurance that no legislation would ever require people to prove they had suffered domestic abuse to avail of related leave.

Mr Martin said there had to be a process and he was “with the deputy on that”.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times