OPINION PIECE: LABOR COMMITS TO TEN DAYS DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE LEAVE

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THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP   
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION 
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING 
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY


LABOR COMMITS TO TEN DAYS DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE LEAVE

 

 

Michelle* had two kids under six when her partner first attacked her. After the second attack, she went to the police. She was told she’d need to apply to the courts for an intervention order to protect herself from her ex-partner.

Many of the meetings she needed to attend to protect herself were only available during business hours – when she was supposed to be at work. She struggled for months in secret, taking time off work as sick leave. 

By the time Michelle told her employer what was happening, she had missed a lot of work and was worried she might lose her job. Michelle was lucky – while she hadn’t known, it turned out her employer offered domestic violence leave and supported her to take the time off she needed.

Michelle is not alone. More than 210,000 Australian women were victims of domestic violence in 2016. Two out of three of those women are currently working. But being a victim of violence can put their jobs at risk.

Women like Michelle can need time off work because they’re injured, need to attend medical appointments, have to go to court to get a restraining order, or pack up and move house.

We know financial insecurity makes women more vulnerable to domestic violence. We know being a victim of domestic violence makes you more likely to experience life-long economic disadvantage. It’s a vicious cycle.

Having a job and some degree of financial independence makes it easier for women who want to leave an abusive relationship.

It’s easier to walk away when you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll be able to afford rent or whether you’ll be able to feed the kids.

One in twelve women return after trying to leave a violent relationship in part because they’ve got nowhere to go and are struggling to support themselves and their kids. That’s not a price you should have to pay.

That’s why it’s so important that we support women to stay in their jobs. 

I’ve heard from many frontline workers in domestic violence services who say that women they’re helping are delaying leaving violent relationships as they fear that taking time off work will lead to them being fired.

Last year, Labor committed to include five days paid domestic violence leave in the National Employment Standards. But lots of women, frontline domestic violence workers, unions and businesses have come back and told us for some women it won’t be enough. We’ve listened to their stories and that’s why Labor is now committing to ten days paid domestic violence leave.

Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and the ACT now provide ten days paid domestic violence leave for people working in the public sector. Others, such as South Australia and Victoria provide more. 

Lots of major companies are already on side.  For example, Telstra, NAB, CUB, Qantas, Virgin Australia, IKEA, Dulux and Blundstone Boots all provide paid domestic violence leave. 

Medibank announced last week that they will start providing unlimited personal leave for employees to deal with issues relating to family and domestic violence. 

These companies show there’s a clear business case for supporting your employees through tough times. Domestic violence is currently costing the Australian economy $21.7 billion a year. Even a small reduction in domestic violence rates from the introduction of paid leave would more than pay for a few days additional leave. 

It seems the only people not getting the message are the Turnbull Government.

Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, thinks domestic violence leave would provide a ‘perverse incentive’ for employers to discriminate against women. Finance Minister Cormann has been so callous as to describe paid domestic violence leave as just ‘another cost’ to the economy.

It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to stop blocking calls for ten days paid domestic violence leave. He can make the change. He just has to want to.

*not her real name.

If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:

*** If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000” ***

 

This piece was originally published in Mamamia on Tuesday, 5 December 2017