Unilever introduces 'haven leave' for victims of domestic violence

Employees will now have 10 leave days to seek legal, residential, medical and psychological assistance.

Consumer goods giant Unilever SA has introduced a special leave for employees dealing with domestic violence and abuse. Genevieve Flynn, a senior brand manager at Unilever SA, spoke to CapeTalk’s Pippa Hudson about ‘haven leave’, which will allow employees to take up to 10 days a year to seek assistance and deal with matters including legal, residential, medical and psychological issues.

Part of the reason for introducing the policy was that Unilever had become aware of the complex challenges facing women in abusive relationships after it had partnered with civil group Powa (People Opposing Women Abuse) in an attempt to respond to widespread gender-based violence in South Africa.

The effort required to leave an abusive home means packing up, finding a new home, finding new schools and possible new forms of transport and  that is partly what makes it so difficult for abuse victims to leave.

If they are a full-time career woman, it's really difficult to have the time to do all of that, so they end up staying in the relationship” said Genevieve. 

It’s a process that has been sixteen months in the making, and what is great about it is that confidentiality which be a key pillar of how the leave is enabled. 

“There are four different ways to redeem the leave. You can either speak to your line manager, your HR business partner, the occupational health team or ICAS counsellors who can then contact our HR team to recommend a certain number of leave days without disclosing the reason for the leave,” she said adding that the leave doesn’t all have to be taken at once.