South Ayrshire Council has become the first in Europe to give "safe leave" to employees who have suffered domestic abuse.

Inspired by domestic violence legislation in New Zealand, the Scottish council will offer up to 10 days of paid leave to allow staff to seek help and support for both themselves and those affected. 

HeraldScotland:

Having been supported by all councillors last year 5 months after legislation in New Zealand was passed, it has now been approved. 

New Zealand was the second country to pass domestic violence victims' protection bill after the Philippines in 2004.

The leave will allow victims of domestic abuse to attend medical appointments and counselling as well as any other necessary issues such as attend legal proceedings, seek safe housing and visit support agencies.

READ MORE: 'Pioneering' domestic abuse programme extended 

Approval of South Ayrshire's policy follows a motion from councillors Laura Brennan-Whitefield and Brian McGinley. 

Councillor Peter Henderson said: "Across South Ayrshire, we're committed to supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities and working with our partners to raise awareness of domestic abuse and violence.

"Giving abused employees access to up to 10 days' safe leave, where they can take the time off they need to access help and support without the worry of it affecting their finances or using up their annual leave, will make a real and lasting difference that could help change lives forever.

"And just by making that support available, it could help give employees the confidence to ask for help and take the first steps towards a safer life for them and their families.

"Domestic abuse will never be tolerated in South Ayrshire but, sadly, we know it happens, and we want to ensure that - when it affects our employees - we do all we can to support them."

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Henderson added: "Our people are undoubtedly our best assets and I'm proud that we're introducing positive and progressive policies that provide increased support to employees at a time when they need it most.

"These include additional paid maternity and paternity leave for parents of premature babies, which is already making a positive difference for employees, and we will continue to do what we can to lead the way and support our people and places."

The move has been welcomed by domestic abuse charities.

READ MORE: Agenda: Remember male victims of domestic violence 

Hazel Bingham, manager of South Ayrshire Women's Aid, said the council's move was a "massive step in the right direction".

"Having a compassionate and supportive employer that allows people the time they need to attend vital appointments, access help and advice, and do what they need to do means they don't need to worry about using up annual leave or going off sick," she said.

"It's essential that council employees know they will be fully supported when they approach their manager or colleagues about their situation and making use of safe leave.

"We're proud to be working in partnership with the council to deliver training and support to ensure there is a clear understanding of the complexities of domestic abuse and employees can make the best use of the safe leave available to them."