The case for paid domestic violence leave: 'It's overdue and life-saving'

The case for paid domestic violence leave: ‘It’s overdue and life-saving’

We cannot rest until all workers across Australia have access to paid family and domestic violence leave, no matter where they work. The only thing now standing in the way of this is the Turnbull Government.

The Labor party last week committed to legislating 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave for all workers.

The week before, the Greens announced they would put a bill to Parliament to include this leave under National Employment Standards. We’ve also seen a number of employers, such as NAB and Telstra, provide paid family and domestic violence leave through their EBAs, negotiating with unions.

While the other parties and some companies are stepping up on paid family and domestic violence leave, the Turnbull Government has failed time and time again to act on this life-and-death issue. The Government even took domestic leave off the Council of Australian Governments’ agenda earlier this year.

Shockingly every week, a woman is killed by her partner, ex-partner, or a family member in Australia. While the Prime Minister has given many impassioned speeches about domestic violence, worn countless ribbons and sympathised with survivors, he still has made no progress on family and domestic violence leave.

Australian women are sick of waiting for the Prime Minister to act. Unions have been calling on the government for years to include at least 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave under the National Employment Standards, which would ensure all workers are supported to escape violent relationships.

Almost two thirds of women who experience domestic violence are in the workforce. They should not have to worry about losing their jobs because they’re in an abusive relationship that has them fearing for their lives and in some cases their children’s lives. Research shows that escaping an abusive relationship takes 141 hours, with almost all necessary tasks having to be undertaken during business hours. To leave, women need paid leave.

Many need to meet with police, lawyers, counsellors, doctors, real estate agents, schools and childcarers. All of this takes time and also costs money. We all know how much moving house can cost, with removalists, up-front rent and a bond, furniture and appliance costs, connection fees for electricity, gas, phone and internet, and setting kids up at a new school or childcare. Research shows escaping a violent relationship can total more than $18,000.

We need to ensure we can help women experiencing violence build and maintain their financial independence in order to be able to get out. Paid leave won’t solve every problem but it will help.

Family and domestic violence costs our economy $12 billion per year. To fund 10 days paid leave would cost 5 cents per worker per day, and most importantly, it will help save lives.

The Turnbull Government’s claims that domestic violence leave would be too expensive don’t make sense either economically or in terms of basic human decency. The government needs to stop making excuses and trying to side-line this issue. Family and Domestic Violence Leave is a long overdue, life-saving reform, and it’s time for the Turnbull Government to get on with it.

Ged Kearney is the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.

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