Vigil seeks backing for special leave provisions for domestic violence victims

Federation members joined the call for the inclusion of domestic violence leave in the National Employment Standards at a vigil in Sydney today.

The colour purple was prominent as unionists campaigned for bipartisan commitment from political parties to support domestic violence victims through special leave provisions.

Domestic violence leave provides victims with extra leave to deal with the fallout of a domestic violence situation such as attending medical, legal and Centrelink appointments, finding accommodation and attending court.

International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow, a Federation Life Member, told the crowd in the Domain that if workplaces were central actors on domestic violence it will make a significant difference to women workers and their children.

This is good industrial, social and economic policy, Unions NSW Secretary Mark Morey said.

"If women are financially independent and have a secure job they are more likely to leave a situation where they are being beaten and abused," he also said.

Representatives from several unions spoke of the importance of including domestic violence leave provisions in enterprise bargaining agreements — expressing the view that a simple workplace entitlement can change lives, save lives.

Australian Services Union Secretary Natalie Lang said no group was more worthy of support than women and families affected by domestic violence.

She said violence had killed 54 women in Australia so far this year.

"Enough is enough — it is time to act. We cannot accept any reason not to act," Ms Lang said.

Unions NSW has called on the NSW government and opposition to list the inclusion of domestic violence leave in the National Employment Standards at the next Council of Australian Governments meeting. Premier Mike Baird has not responded. NSW Labor leader Luke Foley supports Unions NSW's request.

The vigil concluded with flowers being placed on the fence of State Parliament in Macquarie Street, Sydney to represent each of the women killed by violence this year.

Teachers and special leave

At present, teachers in schools and TAFE who are experiencing domestic violence are able to use their sick and FACS leave. This is also available to teachers who are responsible for the care of a family member experiencing violence. Where those entitlements are exhausted, teachers can use up to an additional five days of special leave per calendar year. This leave may be used for activities associated with domestic violence, such as medical appointments, attending a court or police station, appointments with Centrelink and so on. In addition, teachers in TAFE may be able to access a variation of working arrangements, including changes to working times, location or contact details.

1800 RESPECT (1900 737 732) is the National Sexual Assault, Family and Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

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