Fair Work, Employers Groups Fail Workers on Domestic Violence Leave
The Fair Work Commission is being urged to re-think its rejection of a union bid for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave for all employees.
Cassandra Pullos says the full bench of the Fair Work Commission should review its "preliminary view" that while it is necessary to make provisions for family and domestic violence leave, it rejected an application for 10 days of leave to be covered under all modern awards for all employees.
Cassandra says it is extremely disappointing that the commission has said it did not approve the Australian Council of Trade Unions application because it was not satisfied "at this time, that it is necessary to provide 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave to all employees covered by modern awards.
She is especially critical of remarks from employer groups, welcoming Fair Work’s stance and saying paid leave, unpaid leave and flexible working arrangements are already available options where employees experience domestic violence.
“Comments by the employer groups that carers leave and annual leave suffice might work for those workers who have leave entitlements owing – but what about those who don’t?
“Domestic violence isn’t usually a one off event. It often causes incremental and increasing absences from work and is in addition to the burden of days lost by illness of both the parent and their children, and on occasion parents that the domestic violence victim might also be caring for,” Cassandra says.
She has acknowledged Fair Work’s preliminary view that all employees should have access to unpaid family and domestic violence leave and in addition its preliminary view that employees should be able to access personal/carer's leave for the purpose of taking family and domestic violence leave.
However she feels much more could be done and reiterates her view that domestic violence leave should be a compulsory element in every workplace in 2017, the same way personal and holiday leave is provided for by law.
“We as a community are starting to take big steps in recognising the widespread prevalence of domestic violence, across all socio economic groups as a whole of community issue. As a whole of community issue it needs a workplace response as one, essential, part of a whole of community response to domestic violence.
“Enabling victims to access personal and carers leave for the purposes of family and domestic violence leave is one step – but it’s not enough. Specific Family and domestic violence leave is also needed,” she says.
“Not only does it provide victims with the workplace support they need in a more meaningful way than being restricted to whatever personal and annual leave they have available to them, if any, it also send a very strong and powerful message about the communities response to domestic violence and a recognition that this is a whole of community responsibility” .
Cassandra says Queensland public sector workers are entitled to paid domestic violence leave and it should become a standard provision in all workplaces.
“Domestic violence is a growing national crisis and paid leave for those affected by it should be seen as necessary and not confined to just public sector employees,” she says.
Late last year Queensland became the first jurisdiction to legislate paid domestic and family violence for public sector workers. Several Australian law firms are now offering domestic violence leave to staff but it was on an ad hoc basis with no formal, profession-wide policy.
“We support this call for domestic violence leave to be available across the board to everyone affected by it as one of the ways in which the business community can recognise the toll domestic and family violence can take on employees,” Cassandra says.
The State’s provisions for its employees entitles them to up 10 days of paid leave to attend medical, legal and counselling appointments and arrange alternative accommodation and child care assistance.
Cassandra says the legal profession should take a prominent role in advocating change to protect DV victims and advocate tougher penalties for those who commit domestic violence.
She believes the business community could play a crucial and influential role for change especially in opening the closed doors of a behaviour that still carries a worrying stigma for many victims, and which perpetrators of domestic and family violence exploit to their own benefit.
“One of the key messages we need to convey in 2017 is to push for change on the understanding that domestic violence leave is not and should not be just seen as a holiday.
“Domestic violence is so widespread and ingrained, it needs a whole of Government and Community approach to eradicate it. Up until now various groups and agencies have been working almost independently and in isolation on DV solutions.
“The current splintered approach needs to refocus around a robust policy to protect and help victims and deter and appropriately punish domestic violence offenders,” she says.
Legislating domestic violence leave as an entitlement for all workers, irrespective of their profession or industry, is a worthy target for addressing DV in 2017, Cassandra says.
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