A gender equality charity has praised a North Wales council that’s giving an extra 10 days leave to staff trying to flee domestic abuse.

Conwy council amended its Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Policy last week in what is believed to be the first move of its kind by a Welsh local authority.

It means male and female staff can apply for up to 10 days “safe leave” to help them make arrangements to leave an abusive partner.

The policy introduces the one-off allocation which could be used for

court, solicitors or welfare meetings and appointments.

The policy was revisited after reports of domestic violence during lockdown had increased.

Cerys Furlong, Chief Executive of Chwarae Teg, the charity working to improve workplaces for women, said: “This is a really positive move from Conwy Council and one that Chwarae Teg welcomes.

“Our recent research report ‘Trapped: poverty amongst women in Wales’ showed that the ending of relationships is one of the leading causes of poverty for women.

“Many women who live in violent and controlling relationships are faced with the terrifying choice between remaining in an abusive relationship or living in poverty.

“Having this guarantee from their employer that they can take the leave they need without risking a loss of income or indeed their job, is one less obstacle for them to face when escaping violence and abuse and will help to protect their financial independence, security and stability.

“We hope that the other councils across Wales will follow Conwy’s lead on this.”

One victim said being stuck in an abusive relationship was like “being asked to serve the prison sentence with the perpetrator of the crime”.

Cllr Emma Leighton-Jones, cabinet member for modernisation, said: “The figures of those subjected to domestic abuse in the UK are staggering, but of course they will only ever tell part of the story, as not all abuse is reported.

“There is tragic individual cost and it is right and proper that as a local authority we are able to provide all staff who experience domestic abuse ‘safe leave’.

“This is designed to give victims of abuse the time and space to sort out things such as housing, schooling, counselling, appointments with the police or court appearances. It makes a vital difference at a difficult time.”

The policy makes clear Conwy council has a “zero tolerance” approach to domestic abuse and part of the policy looks at training staff to look out for the tell-tale signs someone is a victim.

It consulted with South Ayrshire council in Scotland about the proposals, as it was the first in Europe to undertake such a pledge to workers suffering abuse.

The council said the policy revision has also been supported by unions.