We won’t wait: every worker deserves freedom from violence
Unions across a variety of industries have stood together in seeking appropriate support for employees affected by domestic violence.
Domestic violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and illness of Australian women aged 45 and under. One in three women over the age of 15 has experienced physical or sexual violence.
Domestic violence also affects educational outcomes for students. Teachers and school support staff play an integral role in addressing the emotional and behavioural fallout of students who are directly or indirectly affected.
At a rally held in Brisbane in late last year, union members renewed their message that We Won’t Wait for paid domestic violence leave to be included in minimum working conditions for every Australian worker.
Why paid leave is essential
IEUA-QNT Organiser Caryl Davies said our union had also strongly campaigned for the provision of paid leave to employees experiencing domestic violence as this leave is essential in providing sufferers – the vast majority of whom are women – with the financial freedom to escape such violence.
“The majority of IEUA-QNT members have access to up to 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave.
“This has been achieved by members’ resolve in collective negotiations across many sectors of our membership.
“However, some of our colleagues in the education profession and many other Australian workers do not have access to such provisions.
“Often, when a violent situation does arise, impacted staff do not have any leave available and are forced to take unpaid leave.
“This may lead a person to stay in an unsafe environment for longer because they are left financially dependent on the perpetrator,” Ms Davies said.
The rules are broken
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) launched a case in the Fair Work Commission (FWC) last year to provide 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave to every Australian worker.
The FWC agreed that family and domestic violence is a significant community issue disrupting workforce participation (particularly for women) and thus warrants a workplace response; however, the commission ultimately ruled that employees would be provided with unpaid leave rather than the paid leave as sought by the ACTU.
Unpaid leave, while making some acknowledgment of the severe impact of family and domestic violence, does not provide workers with the necessary financial support to free themselves from such violence.
“What should be a community standard is denied by Fair Work Commission in a narrowly legalistic position,” Ms Davies said.
“When our union brings the issue of domestic violence leave to the bargaining table, employers often stonewall – they refuse to bargain or begrudgingly concede a provision that falls short of the community standard.
“Our laws allow this behaviour – employers are supported by the law when they choose to deny their employees this entitlement.
“This is yet another disturbing example of how broken the rules are in Australia,” Ms Davies said.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said the cost to employers of providing paid family and domestic violence leave would amount to just five cents per worker, per day.
“Australian Unions unequivocally demand that people experiencing family and domestic violence be guaranteed access to a minimum of 10 days paid leave to escape or resolve the violence they have experienced.
“Nothing less than a minimum of 10 days paid leave is acceptable,” Ms Kearney said.
“It’s critical that survivors and people experiencing family and domestic violence to stay in work and have financial security.
“Evidence has shown this is crucial in helping them escape their violent situation.
”We will campaign, rally and do what is necessary to achieve paid family and domestic violence leave for all.”
Sign the petition to provide paid family and domestic violence leave to every Australian worker at australianunions.org.au/wewontwaitdv