Domestic leave laws are not enough to keep women safe: defenders

A young Asian woman suffering from domestic violence stands alone in the bay window of her home. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

Women will not have enough time and money to support themselves and their families under the five days proposed by the federal government for the absence of unpaid domestic violence, advocates have argued.

The Minister of Women Kelly O & Dwyer presented the legislation to parliament on Thursday.

"The scourge of family violence … causes great pain and anguish to those who experience it, their children and their loved ones," said Ms. O & # 39; Dwyer.

"Too often it threatens the ability of workers to keep a job: for their own and their families' livelihood, to participate fully in the workforce and to realize their full potential."

The bill extends the Fair Work Commission's decision in March 2018 to grant five days of unpaid leave to employees covered by the modern awards to all other employees covered by the Fair Work Act.

"This new legislation will allow up to six million additional workers to guarantee access to this new and important workplace without delay, and in all, eight million workers will have access to this new guarantee," he added. O & # 39; Dwyer said.

But the details of the announcement have already attracted violent reactions.

"Five days of non-payment are insufficient … The government should, at a minimum, propose 10 days of paid leave," domestic violence advocate Nina Funnell told SBS News.

Ms. Funnell said paid vacations were a "very simple, but very important and practical" way to "break the cycle" of domestic violence in Australia.

She said that the temporary stability that it entails would allow women to attend court, "get safe" or "deal with the impacts of trauma."

"[Paid domestic violence leave] it can be the difference between staying and leaving … which can be the difference between life and death. "

It was a point that was echoed in the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which has also asked for 10 days of paid holidays.

"Women should not have to choose between whether they are safe or have an income, we need a license for paid domestic violence," ACTU president Michele O & # 39; Neil told ABC radio on Thursday.

Ms. O & Neil said the cost is "small" for businesses when it could save lives.

She said that 10 days should be the minimum, since women need time and money to find a new home, a school and deal with police and judicial matters.

"There is an enormous amount of time and effort in making you and your family safe," said Ms. O & # 39; Neil.

"Women should not have to go back in terms of their income when they try to safeguard themselves."

According to a 2018 report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, one in six Australian women has been exposed, from the age of 15 years, to physical and / or sexual violence by a current or former cohabiting partner.

"Family, domestic and sexual violence happens repeatedly: more than half [54 per cent] of the women who had experienced the current violence of the couple, experienced more than one violent incident, "the report said.

In August, Labor MP Susan Lamb renewed applications for leave for 10-day domestic violence, saying that two-thirds of victims of domestic violence were part of the labor force.

The Australian Industry Group executive director, Innes Willox, says a recent decision by the Fair Work Commission to include five days of unpaid leave in all awards shows that workers do not need 10 days.

The evidence in the Fair Work Commission case was that, on average, employees who take leave because of domestic violence take two to three days, he added.

"Employers have different capacities to provide support to employees who suffer domestic violence," he said in a statement.

"The bill achieves an appropriate balance, as does the model award clause developed by the Fair Work Commission."

If you or someone you know is affected by a sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT at 1800 737 732. In case of emergency, call 000.

– Additional reports: Nick Baker