Family violence is a workplace issue,
and tackling family violence is union business.
Today and every day, Union Women are fighting for:
- 20 days best-practice Family Violence Leave in Victorian enterprise bargaining agreements
- protection from discrimination for survivors of family violence
- legal recognition of family violence as a workplace OHS issue
- better employer training and support structures to help employees dealing with family violence issues.
Family Violence: A Workplace Issue
Two thirds of women who suffer from family violence are in paid work. Staying in paid work is a critical factor in women maintaining their financial independence and escaping family violence. Employees experiencing domestic and family violence are particularly vulnerable to also experiencing this violence at their workplace, due to the predictability of their location and hours. Moreover, the strain of dealing with the abuse may impact an employee’s productivity, performance and well-being.
Many factors impact a family violence victim’s capacity to work, including physical injury, perpetrators hiding or stealing car keys or transportation money, refusal of partners to show up or care for children, sleep deprivation, being forced out of home, death threats, and threats to harm children.
Responding at the Workplace: Family and Domestic Violence Leave
The Australian Services Union (ASU) was the first union to successfully negotiate a domestic violence leave clause into a collective agreement in Australia. The clause was negotiated into the Surf Coast Shire (Victoria) agreement.
Since then, the union movement has been taking up the challenge to advance claims for domestic and family violence leave. Now, more than 1.6 million Australian employees are covered by these clauses in their enterprise agreements or awards.
The VTHC has a Family Violence Model Clause.
The 2015 ACTU Congress resolved to fight to have the clause extended to all workers, including casual workers, by way of inclusion in the National Employment Standards. This would group the clause in with the other types of leave already included in the NES, e.g. sick leave, long service leave, carer’s leave etc.
Why employers need to take action
- Fulfilling their duty of care and OHS obligations - Nearly one in five Australian women who experience domestic violence say the harassment continued at the workplace, there is therefore an OHS obligation on employers to ensure strategies are put in place to protect their employees from an incident of domestic and family violence at work.
- Fulfilling obligations under the Fair Work Act - Under s65 of the Australian Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth), an employee may request a change to their hours of work, their days of work or their work location due to their experience of domestic and family violence, or if they are supporting someone experiencing domestic violence.
Employer of choice – Employers who become known for their supportive practices are likely to be more attractive to potential employees. Further, proactively taking a stand against domestic and family violence, with tangible rights available in the workplace, demonstrates an organisation’s commitment to their values, social responsibility charters and demonstrates that they are good corporate citizens. This is good for their ‘employer brand’.
In addition, Access Economics estimated that in 2002-03, domestic violence cost Australian businesses AUD$175.2 million (Access Economics, 2004). If for no other reason, Australian employers should address this issue in order to reduce this substantial cost.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Does your workplace have a clause?
- If not, have you contacted your union to discuss this?
- If your workplace does have a clause, do you think it is widely known about among your colleagues?
- Do you think training would assist your employer with implementing a clause at your workplace?
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