Outcry Over Loss of Govt Domestic Violence Leave
9 March 2016 at 11:29 am
Community groups have condemned the decision to strip domestic violence leave from Commonwealth public servants’ workplace agreements.
The Canberra Times reported on Tuesday night that the orders to remove the leave came from the federal workplace authority, which answers directly to Minister for Women Michaelia Cash.
Up to 30 public service employers insisted that the right of their workers to take time off for family violence be removed, including the Human Services Department and the Australian Taxation Office.
CEO of Domestic Violence NSW Moo Baulch said she was “surprised” by the news, which coincided with International Women’s Day.
“Domestic violence leave is important on both a practical level but also a symbolic level, so it sends out a really clear message within workplaces that impacts of domestic violence are recognised and taken very seriously by employers,” Baulch said.
— Senthorun Raj (@senthorun) March 8, 2016
“And of course on a practical level, it also gives employees the ability to access that leave in recognition that when you’re going through a crisis… that that takes time and there there are impacts, particularly trauma, that relates to those experiences too.”
While the government said that victims of family violence can still take miscellaneous leave, Baulch said this ignored the symbolic importance of designated leave.
“That’s probably why people are upset about the removal of this leave, because it’s a symbolic representation that domestic violence leave is very different from other types of leave,” she said.
“It’s not the same as sick leave, it’s not the same as personal leave, it’s actually specifically for a purpose, and sending out a really clear message, not just to victims of violence, but also to perpetrators saying ‘this sort of stuff will not be tolerated within our workplace and we take it very seriously.’”
ACT Greens Senate candidate Christina Hobbs also called the decision a “a huge step backwards for the public service and women working in the public sector”.
“Those who fear for their safety shouldn’t have to worry about losing their jobs if they need to go to court or access support,” Hobbs said.
“We shouldn’t expect women in crisis to use their annual leave – and many of them won’t have supporting documentation for other kinds of leave.
“The timing of yesterday’s reports was ironic. Malcolm Turnbull and Michaelia Cash talked the talk on International Women’s Day, but behind the scenes they were stripping support to their own public servants.”
Hobbs also said that the government should be leading all employers in the implementation of domestic violence leave.
“Everybody has a role in supporting people affected by domestic violence. Instead of cutting off help, the government and the public service should be setting an example for employers on how to show support,” she said.
Govt's public service policy needs to change. For people who need it, Domestic Violence Leave isn't an 'enhancement' https://t.co/gwwHTMTykY
— CPSU (@CPSUnion) March 8, 2016
In January 2015 telco giant, Telstra became the first corporate to offer 10 days domestic violence leave for all of its 34,000 staff.
Telstra’s General Manager of Diversity and Industries, Troy Roderick, told Pro Bono Australia News at the time that the leave was available to anyone affected by domestic violence, even if they were not the direct victim, and that they could apply for it retrospectively.
“Domestic and family violence can take a variety of different forms, not just physical violence, but there can be emotional, financial or other kinds of violence that people experience,” Roderick said.
“There’s other leave if you need to take time off for other personal things. The idea here is we treat the subject matter with respect and the people that are experiencing family or domestic violence with the utmost respect, privacy and confidentiality, recognising the sensitivity around the issue.”