Paid “safe time” refers to paid time off used specifically to deal with issues related to domestic abuse. While many employers offer some form of paid time off, not all employers have specific PTO days allotted to deal with domestic abuse. This can be a critical distinction, as it allows victims in these situations to try to take steps to improve the situation without simultaneously fearing the loss of their job. Having an income is often a crucial component that affects an individual’s ability to leave a bad situation; knowing that the job will still be there can be a critical aspect that allows someone to take action.
Unfortunately, every year thousands of jobs are lost under these circumstances. Victims of domestic violence may have to be absent from work while escaping a violent situation and may end up losing their job as a result. Legislators in several states have noted that it doesn’t have to be this way—job loss in this scenario just compounds the problem for the individual and the community. They’ve put together legislation in a few states that guarantees the right to PTO for these types of activities related to domestic violence and abuse.
This type of policy could help domestic abuse victims turn things around and get to a better situation sooner if they don’t fear their job (and therefore their livelihood) is at risk in the process.
What is Paid Safe Time Used For?
Most organizations don’t differentiate what PTO can be used for, but some are quite strict, especially with sick days (as opposed to more generic PTO). For those that are strict, allocating “safe time” is particularly useful. Here are some of the things safe time could be used for:
- Time to handle legal issues, like getting a restraining order, preparing for a court appearance, or attending a hearing or trial.
- Time to leave and go to somewhere that is safer, whether that’s a shelter or moving in with a family member or friend. And then time to find a more permanent new home, too, and complete everything required during the moving process.
- Time to get medical care for injuries sustained as a result of domestic violence, sexual assault, or other related issue.
- Time to get counseling, seek social services, or meet with an attorney.
- Time to file a complaint with the proper authorities.
- Time to make other life changes associated with an emergency move, like getting children enrolled in a new school.
These are just a few examples of the types of activities that could be covered under a safe time policy. The ultimate details vary right now by state and local law (where applicable) and by employer where employers have voluntarily implemented policies.
The details of implementation can be tough to work out. Naturally, employers want to be sure they’re doing the right thing, but they also want to protect themselves from fraud. As such, some employers would prefer to be able to ask for evidence of what necessitated the leave, just like they would require a doctor’s note after a prolonged absence for an illness. This is a difficult area, however, and the state laws vary in how it is treated. No one wants to step on the privacy rights of individuals, and requiring too much in the form of evidence may actually end up making individuals not want to take the leave, which defeats the purpose. Employers looking to implement such a policy need to be aware of this possible risk when requesting any type of proof of the need for the leave.
Ultimately, allowing someone to take time off in these scenarios can allow him or her to get out of the situation faster, which is better for everyone and can reduce future violent incidences. Implementing such a policy can be as simple as changing the sick leave policy to a “sick and safe leave” policy, thus allowing those days to be used for a broader range of purposes, or switching to a policy in which you do not require proof that someone was ill in order to take the days off.