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Bright Blue, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, has today called for the UK Government to introduce a new automatic right for employees to ten days of domestic abuse leave annually.

All full-time employees, who have worked for the same employer for 26 consecutive weeks, would have the legally enshrined right to domestic abuse leave, with five paid days and five unpaid days. Part-time or casual workers would also be entitled to the same leave, if they have worked a sufficient number of hours.

Following the examples of Australia and New Zealand, where such a right has already been introduced, domestic abuse leave can be used by victims in a number of ways: allowing them to seek safety; attend police or court appointments; or seek out specialist support services without jeopardising their jobs.

The proposal comes in advance of a major research report by Bright Blue on the benefits and challenges of home working during the pandemic, for which Bright Blue polling has shown that home workers have been at a significantly higher risk of experiencing domestic abuse than non-home workers since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

Bright Blue’s polling has found:

  • Home workers have been much more likely to experience domestic abuse during the pandemic than non-home workers. 11% of pandemic home workers report experiencing domestic abuse since March 2020, compared to 1% of pandemic non-home workers.
  • Disabled home workers report experiencing much higher rates of domestic abuse since March 2020 compared to the population at large, especially in London. In general, disabled people have been at a higher risk of domestic abuse during the pandemic, with 10% of disabled people reporting domestic abuse since March 2020, in comparison with 5% of the general population. This risk is even higher for disabled home workers. Over a quarter (27%) of disabled home workers report experiencing domestic abuse in the same period, and the risk is especially acute in London, where over a third (35%) of disabled home workers say they have experienced domestic abuse since March 2020. This is despite the fact that, in general, adults living in London do not report being at a higher risk of domestic abuse. 

These findings come in the context of growing evidence showing marked upswings in demand for domestic abuse support during the pandemic. Between April and June 2020, there was a 65% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline compared with January to March 2020, directly before lockdown was imposed. The same period saw the number of visits to Refuge’s Helpline increase by 700%.

To claim their domestic abuse leave, employees would need to provide their employer with proof, which they can also provide retroactively. This proof would be of relatively low administrative burden and include, but not be limited to: a letter or email from a support worker or organisation; court records; a letter from a medical professional; and a letter or email from the police.

Phoebe Arslanagić-Wakefield, Senior Researcher at Bright Blue and report  author, commented:

“Many employees are likely to continue home working post-pandemic, and with the pressing, society-wide need to protect victims of domestic abuse, Safeguarding Minister Rachel Maclean MP should support the introduction of a right to ten days of domestic abuse leave for all eligible workers, helping victims of domestic abuse to leave dangerous situations. 

“The right to ten days of domestic abuse leave should also be championed by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – this policy will make it easier for victims to remain in employment, and improve the support for victims available in workplaces, as well as awareness of domestic abuse among employers.”

You can view the polling data here.

Notes:

  • This research report is supported by Trust for London and Barrow Cadbury Trust. Bright Blue retains full editorial control over all our outputs.
  • Polling was undertaken by Opinium and conducted between 19th and 26th February 2021. It consists of one sample of 3,003 UK adults, with a booster sample of 1,006 UK adults living in London. The sample was weighted by Opinium to reflect a nationally representative audience.

[Image: Priscilla Du Preez]