Each week one woman dies as a result of domestic violence in Australia. But of course, those who survive do not simply walk away. Domestic Violence has far-reaching impacts on the lives of those it affects, not least by making it incredibly difficult to maintain normal work hours and keep a job.
The minimum Domestic Violence Leave provision proposed by the ACTU aims to make it easier for survivors of domestic violence to remain in paid employment and manage stressful and time consuming tasks like finding a new home and attending court. It does this by providing access to ten days paid leave and an additional two days unpaid leave per year.
Research looking at workplaces that already offer some form of Domestic Violence Leave shows it has wide-ranging benefits for the employees affected by domestic violence, their employers and workplaces.
By shielding survivors from the risk of losing their job as they seek legal assistance, find a new place to live and make other necessary arrangements to ensure their safety and the safety of their families, employers can play a pivotal role in ensuing long term positive outcomes for people affected by domestic violence.
ABS figures show that two thirds of the 400,000 plus people (mostly women) who experience domestic violence each year are workers.
Employment and financial stability are critical to escaping a violent and abusive relationship.
Sue* had an AVO against her abusive ex-partner to keep her and her children safe. She had used up all of her personal leave. When she asked her employer for a morning off work to renew the expiring AVO she was refused and told to wait until her day off. Sue had to choose between the safety of her and her children or her job.
If Sue had paid domestic violence leave, she could remain employed and keep her family safe.
*Name has been changed
Paid domestic violence leave recognises that workers experiencing domestic violence often have exhausted their personal leave entitlements and can least afford to take unpaid leave at a time when financial security is critical.
Domestic violence is a social issue that must be tackled and taken seriously by all members of our community, including employers.
Already more than 1.6 million employees have access to paid domestic violence leave through union negotiated workplace agreements; the ACTU aims to extend this to all employees.
Unions and employers have negotiated over700 workplace agreements to support workers experiencing domestic violence, across a wide range of industries including finance, telecommunication, health, education, social and community services, retail, hospitality, transport, manufacturing, energy, construction, public sector and local governments. Best practice workplaces offer in excess of 20 days paid leave.
The ACTU claim:
• Will directly benefit more than six million workers;
• Provides for 10 days paid domestic violence leave for workers to attend court proceedings, counselling, medical or legal appointments, re-location or safety arrangements and other related activities;
• Provides a further two days unpaid domestic violence leave per occasion if a worker’s paid leave is exhausted.
Why do we need paid domestic violence leave and protections at work?
- Two-thirds of women reporting recent domestic violence are in paid employment.
- Women who have experienced domestic violence have a more disrupted work history, are on lower incomes and are more often employed in casual and part time work.
- Nearly half of those who have experienced domestic/family violence in the last 12 months say the violence prevents them getting to work. In most cases this is due to physical injury or restraint, the perpetrator hiding the keys or the need to care for children.
- 1 in 5 say the violence continues at the workplace, most commonly through abusive phone calls or emails. Some perpetrators pose a safety risk to the person affected and their co-workers during work hours.
- The cost to the Australian economy of women experiencing physical violence, sexual violence or emotional abuse by a partner is estimated to be $12.6 billion. The economic cost for women who have experienced any type of violence is estimated to be $21.7 billion.
- The financial effect of domestic violence includes negative consequences for long term health and well-being, poverty and homelessness;
- Safe and secure employment is a cost effective preventative measure which sends a strong message of cultural intolerance towards violence against women;
- Providing flexibility around working hours will help make the workplace safer for everyone.