Millions entitled to 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave after ‘historic win’

Millions of Australians will be entitled to 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave under a landmark decision by the industrial umpire handed down on Monday.

In a historic decision that affects over 2.6 million people employed under modern awards, and likely to set a precedent for all employed Australians, the Fair Work Commission has held workers should be able to access the leave on a yearly basis at their base rate of pay.

Australians employed under awards will be entitled to 10 days’ family violence leave under a landmark decision.Credit:IStock

“Family and domestic violence is a ubiquitous and persistent social problem. While men can, and do, experience FDV, such violence disproportionately affects women. It is a gendered phenomenon,” the full bench of the commission wrote in its decision, adding the pandemic had seen an increase in the scourge.

“We have concluded that the merits strongly favour a paid FDV leave entitlement.”

From the age of 15, approximately one in 4 women, compared to one in 13 men, have experienced at least one incident of violence by an intimate partner.

“In comparison to women with no experience of [family and domestic violence], women experiencing or who have experienced FDV have a more disrupted work history; are on lower personal incomes; have had to change jobs frequently; and are more likely to be employed on a casual and part-time basis,” the commission said.

Hayley Foster, who chairs sexual, domestic and family violence counselling and advocacy organisation Full Stop Australia said the outcome was “incredibly emotional”.

“It’s impossible not to be overcome with joy right now. This is going to be an absolute game changer,” she said.

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil called it a “historic win and a generational achievement for millions of women who have fought for this against the resistance of this and previous Coalition governments”.

“Already this year 18 women have been killed by their current or previous partner. Access to paid family and domestic violence leave saves lives. No worker should ever have to choose between their income and their safety,” she said.

Major employers, including Telstra and PricewaterhouseCoopers, offer employees 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave, and Business Council of Australia head Jennifer Westacott last year used her address to the National Summit on Women’s Safety to call for corporate bosses to step up and make the paid leave universal.

The federal opposition has made 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave, to be funded by employers, an election commitment. Labor’s Linda Burney and Jenny McAllister introduced bills into both houses of Parliament in late 2020 in a push broadly backed by the union movement.

Advocates are calling on the government to insert paid domestic and family violence leave into the National Action Plan to End Violence and Women and Children, with the draft under consideration.

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