Announcing Labor's Domestic Violence leave policy

Announcing Labor's Domestic Violence leave policy


SUBJECTS: Labor to Legislate for Ten Days Domestic Violence Leave.

TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Thanks very much for coming out this afternoon. I'm here with my colleagues Brendan O'Connor and Terri Butler, and bunch of frontline workers who work in the area of domestic violence, and we are really delighted today to be announcing Labor's policy of 10 days of paid domestic violence leave for workers who are facing domestic violence in their personal lives. 

We know that domestic violence is the leading cause of death, disability and injury in women aged 15-44 in Australia. We are losing about one woman every week to domestic violence - and this is a national shame and a national tragedy. We've spoken to frontline workers like these, we've have spoken to employers, we've spoken to victims of domestic violence and the message has consistently been that women who are facing the most dangerous and difficult time in their lives need more support at work. 

We know that for many women the reason they don't leave a violent relationship is because they're worried about how they will survive financially, they're worried about their children facing poverty and homelessness. So it is so very important that if a woman has a job, she is able to keep that job when she is leaving a violent relationship. 

We know that the most dangerous time for a woman is when she is leaving a violent relationship. That's the time when she is most likely to need to find new accommodation, upgraded security at the home, to get an apprehended violence order from police, perhaps to seek treatment for injuries, perhaps to seek treatment for psychological injury, perhaps to attend court appearances. If a woman needs to take time off work to do these vital things to keep herself and her family safe, she should be able to count on being able to go back to work, to continue to receive the pay check that will keep herself and her family safe, a roof over their hands and food on the table. 

So, we are very pleased to have worked with frontline workers and their union to make this announcement today. We're going to hear a little bit about these details from Brendan. 


Thanks Tanya. This is a very important announcement because it does go to what extent are we willing to provide for women who are subject to domestic violence. Do we go beyond the rhetoric and say we care? Labor says yes, we have to do more than just say we care, we have to put in place support mechanisms that will provide support for women in these dire circumstances.

Now one of the ways we can do that is to legislate to provide a universal workplace right for women to access paid domestic violence leave. And we can do that by varying the Fair Work Act and indeed varying the National Employments Standards and that’s what Labor has chosen to do. And for that reason we would firstly call upon the Government to join Labor, and we say this to Malcolm Turnbull sincerely, to join Labor and support this very important measure.

If the Prime Minister and the Government chose to support our announcement today we could get this legislated very quickly, and it would mean real support, immediate support for women in need.

Now if not, what we have made very clear, what Bill Shorten has made clear and Tanya Plibersek has made clear and Federal Labor has made clear is if elected we will change the law to provide this support.

We want to also acknowledge the efforts of the union movement and working men and women around this country who have negotiated provisions in enterprise agreements that cover about 30 per cent of the workforce.

We’d like to acknowledge and thank flagship companies like Virgin Australia, Qantas, National Australia Bank, Telstra, CUB who have actually said that they will or who in fact already dedicated 10 or more paid domestic violence leave days for their staff who may be subject to domestic violence.

So we are seeing a coming together of employers and unions and workers informed by victims and frontline staff and what we would like to see now is the Government joining the Federal Opposition to support this initiative.

We want to see greater levels of real support. This is one way, one very practical way we can provide that support. For many women their workplace is their only support mechanism. Their work colleagues, sometimes their employer may be their only other support they have in these situations. And for that reason it is so important.

And beyond the practical support this is also a way of de-stigmatizing this matter, bringing it out in the open, saying to women that are victims of such violence that it’s ok to ask for support and ask for help.

So it’s absolutely vital that we see this change and we ask the Government to consider the change. But let there be no mistake that if it’s not done in this parliament, if elected it will be done in the next parliament by a Shorten Labor Government.

TERRI BUTLER: I’m really pleased to be in a position to support this announcement as well because it is such an important one for Australian women. It’s hard enough when you’re a victim of family violence or a survivor of family violence to deal with the stress of seeing lawyers, seeing doctors, getting counselling, without having to worry about whether you’re going to lose your job or go without pay. Women should not be put into that situation.

Putting this entitlement into the National Employment Standards will take away that additional stress for women and will also have the real effect of precluding people from losing their jobs because of what they need to do in respect to responding to family and domestic violence. At the moment the only way this can happen is with the support of the Turnbull Government and I am very hopeful that they will rise to the challenge of standing up and saying that they too will support the amendment of the National Employment Standards to include family and domestic violence leave. But if they do not, then it will fall to a Shorten Labor Government to introduce domestic violence leave into the National Employment Standards and of course I intend to campaign for that to occur.

We’ve got with us today some of the most amazing people you will meet. The women behind us are women, who every day, deal with victims and survivors of violence. They deal with the fact that domestic violence is the most important and largest cause of homelessness in this country, the most significant in terms of numbers, cause of homelessness in this country. They deal with the fact that domestic violence is connected to electricity disconnections. These things come back to security of income and security of work for domestic violence victims. Hearing their stories really gives a lot of weight to the idea that we need to have a comprehensive workplace response to family and domestic violence and this announcement will go a long way to assisting with that workplace response and it will be really wonderful to hear from one of those frontline service providers right now.

WORKER: Hello, I am Lyn and I am a Community Worker. Like other Community and Family workers, this is a really big issue that we deal with – women escaping domestic violence.

It’s an incredibly complex issue with many, many factors that affect the women and the children in those families.

So, being able to know that legitimately, you can go to your employer and say I need time off to go to a medical appointment, to take my children to a counselling appointment, I need to go to court – I don’t need be ashamed because this is legislated change that I am entitled to that will enable me and my family to be safe.

It’s so important, and we are really, really, thrilled that Labor has taken this stand.

JOURNALIST: For the companies that have already introduced this sort of leave, what are the numbers of the people who have taken it up and what sort of impact has it had on it?

PLIBERSEK: We are absolutely thrilled that so many companies have already done this voluntarily. Many large companies are offering 10 days, some are offering 20 days, in fact we had an announcement last week of a company offering unlimited domestic violence leave, and we think that says a lot about the way those employers value their workforce. They know that actually losing a good worker, having to rehire, retrain a new person to replace them doesn't make sense for a business. Many employers like the one we heard from this morning just say we think it's our moral obligation. These people are people we care about, we work with them, they are our colleagues, we want to look after each other. 

Even though this entitlement is becoming more and more widely available in workplaces, we see that only a very small number of workers ever pick it up. So something less than 1 per cent is what we anticipate of the workforce will make use of this type of entitlement. It is really a very small in cost on employers because of the very low numbers of people who ever need to make use of this entitlement. But we want the entitlement to be there for people when they need it. 

We know that it is available also in a number of states for public sector workers and it's very disappointing that here, in Canberra, public sector workers actually used to have this entitlement, and this Government got rid of it - the Liberal Government got rid of it for public sector workers in the federal public service. So, even though only a very small number of people ever need this entitlement, when need it, boy do they need it, and that's why we want to make it available. 


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