In April 2019, New Zealand employers will be required to provide victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave. The purpose of the paid leave is to allow domestic violence victims to relocate, seek legal help, and address their trauma without fear of losing their income.
In Florida, employers (with 50 or more employees) are required to provide eligible employees (employees who have worked 3 or more months) 3 working days of unpaid domestic or sexual violence leave in any 12-month period. The leave provides the victims with some level of support or flexibility. However, the employer can require the employee to first exhaust all vacation leave, personal leave, and sick leave before taking the 3 days. Additionally, the leave may be paid or unpaid, at the employer’s discretion. To learn more details about the statute’s requirements read our own Lisa Berg’s blog post.
Also, local ordinances may provide employees in your county with a greater leave entitlement. For example, in Miami-Dade County, an employee (employed at least 90 days, worked 308 hours and works for an employer with 50 or more employees) may be eligible to receive 30 days of unpaid domestic or repeat violence leave.
If an employee is suffering from psychological issues or physical injuries as a result of an abusive relationship, the employee may have a serious health condition under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). An eligible employee may then be entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under the FMLA.
Although Florida employers are not required to provide paid domestic violence leave, they should consider whether a paid domestic violence leave policy could benefit the workplace.
Employees who are facing domestic violence are likely to be less productive. In 2013, Robert Pearl, M.D., noted in a Forbes’ article that “[e]ach year, an estimated 8 million days of paid work is lost in the U.S. because of domestic violence. Domestic violence costs $8.3 billion in expenses annually: a combination of higher medical costs ($5.8 billion) and lost productivity ($2.5 billion).”
Furthermore, paid leave and a supportive employer may be a positive factor in an employee’s ability to leave an abusive relationship. One Australian advocate noted that “[i]t’s hard to leave an abusive relationship if you don’t have an income. So, keeping your job can make the difference between escaping and being trapped in a violent relationship.” So are employers better off providing employees with paid leave to support employees who need to escape abusive relationships? The evidence is not conclusive, but it is logical to assume that helping employees in a violent relationship may likely boost employee productivity and morale.
Employers should determine whether or not they should implement a domestic leave policy. Employers should also analyze any domestic leave policy they may have to ensure that it is in compliance with the FMLA, Florida Law, and any applicable local ordinances.
*Special thanks to Thomas Raine, who assisted in the drafting of this post. Thomas is a third year Juris Doctor Candidate at the University of Miami School of Law.