I thank you for the opportunity to speak on the Bill this afternoon, a Cheann Comhairle. I know that behind almost everything that we do here, there are very good intentions. However, I feel that this Bill, which we in Sinn Féin have brought forward here today, is incredibly important legislation. Quite simply, the Bill seeks to provide for a period of paid leave for people who are the victims of domestic violence. This legislation is an important addition to existing workplace rights. The provision of a statutory entitlement to paid leave is an acknowledgment by legislators of the challenges workers face when trying to escape an abusive relationship. If we are to end the epidemic of domestic abuse in this State, we need a whole-of-society response that both supports and protects women.
Sinn Féin's legislation provides for up to ten days' paid domestic violence leave. Importantly, workers do not have to provide proof of their abuse or documentary evidence for the leave needed, as to do so would potentially act as a barrier to victims seeking the support they need. As with existing leave entitlements, the legislation enables an employer to refuse or terminate the leave where she or he believes the worker is not using the leave for the specified purpose. I want to be clear: business has nothing to fear from this leave. This would be done in a very organised way to ensure that the benefit accrues to the worker. It is not in any way anti-business. In turn, the worker has recourse to the Workplace Relations Commission in such circumstances where the leave has been taken for the specified purpose but has been terminated or, indeed, refused by the employer.
Research tells us that abusive partners do not care one little bit about the split between home and work. These abusers deploy a variety of methods to harass, intimidate and hurt their victims. We have seen and heard of situations where stalking, persistent telephone calls or threats occur in the workplace. Coercive control, which is now recognised under the Domestic Violence Act, can lead to abusers focusing their efforts on a partner's workplace for the purpose of getting them sacked.
Legislators and employers have a responsibility to respond to this avenue of abuse by putting in place the necessary workplace and employment rights protection for victims. I know much-needed statements on domestic violence will be taken on Thursday. Along with talking about it and recognising the problem of domestic violence, we need progressive action and positive solutions, which is what Sinn Féin is trying to do.