HEALTH

Paid Domestic Violence Leave Is Working, Now It Needs Broader Uptake

More than 100 Telstra employees have taken leave specifically for domestic violence victims.

24/11/2016 8:30 AM AEDT | Updated 24/11/2016 8:30 AM AEDT
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At Telstra, all employees were told they had an additional 10 days paid leave for domestic violence issues.

Victims of domestic violence are using paid leave when it's offered by employees, bolstering calls to make it a mainstay of employment contracts.

The relatively new concept was borne out of a realisation Australia had a serious domestic violence problem: at least one Australian woman is killed each week by a current or former partner and one in four have experienced physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner.

The scourge of domestic violence which faces us today is one of our great social issues. It won't be solved in a year, but we will surely be judged, as a generation, as to how we have created a safer world, for our sons and daughters.David Morrison

In the workplace, KPMG found domestic violence was often a cause of unexplained absences and estimated that by 2021 this reality would cost Australian businesses $609 million a year.

In this context, Telstra announced it would implement an additional 10 days of paid leave for victims of domestic violence in late 2014.

Today, 102 people have utilised the confidential Telstra leave.

Head of diversity and inclusion Troy Roderick told The Huffington Post Australia a business of its size needed to accept some staff would be experiencing domestic violence.

"We know that's the sad reality in our community at the moment and what I think is good is that people feel comfortable and safe enough to raise such a personal issue happening in their lives with their leaders," Roderick said.

"It also shows our leaders are equipped to support them. It is encouraging we've created that safe environment for people.

"When someone is experiencing domestic or family violence at home, this leave takes the pressure off at work so they can focus on what they need at home."

The initiative was in part inspired by a group brought together by then Sex Discrimination Minister Elizabeth Broderick called Male Champions of Change. The group of 17 organisations including Citi, the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank collectively employed 600,000 staff and .

The latest report from the group estimated 1.4 million Australian women were living in an abusive relationship, or have been so in the past.

"Of these women, about 800,000 were in the paid workforce," the report said.

"Perpetrators are too. Chances are that in a workplace of any size, you are affected."

As retired Lieutenant General David Morrison said in the report, domestic violence has become a defining challenge for this generation.

"The scourge of domestic violence which faces us today is one of our great social issues.

"It won't be solved in a year, but we will surely be judged, as a generation, as to how we have created a safer world, for our sons and daughters."

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