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Dickson Seeks to Improve Domestic Abuse (Safe Leave) Bill

East Antrim Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, has spoken out in support of new legislation which would offer safe leave from the workplace to the victims of domestic abuse.

Mr Dickson said: “Sadly Northern Ireland’s rates of domestic abuse are higher than anywhere else in the UK, with approximately 32,000 incidents reported between April 2019 and March 2021.That translates into an act of domestic violence every 17 minutes during 2020.

“This Bill proposes that victims of domestic abuse have access to up to ten days of leave annually, and builds on the tireless work from my colleague, Justice Minister, Naomi Long, after she delivered the Domestic Abuse and Family Proceedings Act earlier this year”.

In explaining why Safe Leave is so important for the victims of domestic abuse, Mr Dickson said: “Whilst domestic violence may happen behind closed doors, the trauma has far-reaching consequences that impact the working lives of those living with an abusive partner. The scale of the problem is huge, with one in five victims having to take time off work as a direct consequence of what they have suffered”.

Whilst in support of the Bill as a whole, Mr Dickson detailed two areas where he believed improvements could be made: “I have worked for some 30 years in the Labour Relations Agency. That experience leads me to conclude that a higher level of confidentiality to protect victims against ‘water-cooler’ conversations should be embedded within the detail of the Bill.

“I also believe that we should look to extend Safe Leave to the survivors of sexual assault outside of the domestic sphere. The trauma and vulnerability of such survivors is not dissimilar to that of domestic abuse victims, and so there is an opportunity here to expand the scope of this Bill”.

The Domestic Abuse (Safe Leave) Bill was brought forward as a Private Member’s Bill. In the proposers’ concluding remarks, Mr Dickson was thanked for his contribution and it was stated that the proposer was also open to working with him on how best to broaden the scope of the Bill, to encompass better confidentiality protections, and the inclusion of sexual assault survivors.


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