Inaction on Domestic Violence Leave ‘Unconscionable’
12 December 2016 at 11:34 am
The Australian Council of Trade Unions has slammed the government’s inaction on domestic violence leave as “unconscionable”.
During a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on Friday the nation’s state and federal political leaders put off any decision on a nationwide standard for family violence leave until early next year.
The government said it would wait for a Fair Work Commission decision on the entitlement, which is expected to be handed down in the first half of 2017, before revisiting the issue.
It comes after the ACTU mounted a claim in the Fair Work Commission for 10 days leave to be included in all modern awards, to allow workers experiencing violence at home time to seek medical assistance, attend court, relocate or make safety arrangements for themselves or their children.
ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the Turnbull government’s abandonment of paid family and domestic violence leave was “deeply irresponsible” and flew in the face of the widespread community acceptance that “we must all do more to address domestic and family violence”.
“Every White Ribbon Day or International Women’s Day we see members of the government paying lip service to the need to fight family and domestic violence, but yet again they have failed to actually do something about it,” Oliver said.
“Two thirds of those experiencing family and domestic violence are in paid work, and helping people preserve their financial independence can be critical as they attempt to escape a life-threatening situation – yet the minister for both employment and women, Michaelia Cash, continues to oppose paid leave.
“This government has failed to make a submission to the Fair Work Commission, criticised the ABC’s inclusion of paid family and domestic violence leave in its new EBA, and attempted to clawback leave available to some public servants.”
“It’s clear that Minister Cash is now actively working against the best interests of women in the workplace.”
Coinciding with the COAG meeting the ACTU also released a short film highlighting the trauma and lack of rights that people experiencing family or domestic violence face as they try to manage work.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann has come under fire for saying a national standard for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave would be “another cost” to Australia’s economy.
In the wake of the decision Cormann told Sky News the federal government was already investing in combating domestic violence and a paid leave program would be expensive.
“We just believe it’s another cost on our economy that will have an impact on our international competitiveness,” Cormann said.
“These are matters my good friend and colleague Michaelia Cash has addressed in detail.
“It’s not something that we are attracted to.”
But Shadow Assistant Minister for Preventing Family Violence Terri Butler said his comments were “callous and clueless”.
“Senator Cormann first complained about the cost and so-called counter-productive consequences of domestic violence leave, then was unable to explain his concerns,” Butler said said.
“Senator Cormann said ‘we just believe it’s another cost on our economy that will have an impact on our international competitiveness,’ but he’s obviously confused: it’s domestic violence, not domestic violence leave, that costs our economy and harms our international competitiveness.
“Domestic violence costs Australia an estimated $13 billion annually, according to KPMG’s 2009 research. Policies aimed at reducing domestic violence and supporting victims and survivors will help alleviate the impost on our economy. More importantly, they’ll save lives.”
Butler called on the government to act in a bipartisan manner to help end the “scourge of domestic violence”.