Paid 'safe days' offer domestic violence survivors protection
- Domestic violence might start at home, but it often disrupts survivors’ work life. A study by the Joint Center for Poverty Research at Northwestern University shows that domestic violence causes between 25% and 50% of survivors to lose their jobs. Some states have stepped up to help survivors by offering “safe days,” either paid or unpaid, reports Quartz.
- Paid “safe days” allow survivors time off for court appearances, protective service appointments and other domestic violence-related matters without fear of losing pay. California passed a paid “safe day” law in 2014. To be eligible, employees must have worked 90 days for their current employer and accrue days over time. Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and Oregon also passed “safe days” legislation, either paid or unpaid.
- In some states, paid “safe days” are covered under paid time off laws, many of which are tied to proposals for raising the minimum wage. Paid time off in Vermont, Washington state and Arizona includes time off to attend to domestic violence issues, which often are medical.
The connection between minimum wage increases, time off (paid or unpaid) and “safe days” was a key issue among states and municipalities in this year’s election.
Domestic violence threatens survivors’ pay, as well as their lives. A McKinsey and Company report, The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in the United States, cites violence against women as among six factors contributing to pay inequity. Unpaid “safe days” might not protect survivors of domestic violence as intended because employees, especially low-wage earners, often must decide whether they can afford time off without pay. The Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence reports that survivors often miss critical court dates rather than lose a payday.
The cost of domestic violence for employers is the loss of productivity. Workers plagued by violence at home often are distracted and sometimes ill at work. Forbes reports that domestic violence costs employers $5.8 billion for survivors’ medical expenses and $2.5 billion in lost productivity, for a total of $8.3 billion a year. Companies should look out for signs of distress in workers. Some are training their employee assistance teams how to screen for domestic violence.