The push for domestic violence leave to be enshrined as a national workplace right has received an extra political push, with Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk throwing her weight behind the idea.
Domestic violence leave is an uncommon yet growing workplace condition. Paid time off for workers to deal with domestic violence situations -- such as being forced to leave home, get their affairs and finances in order, or seek medical or psychological help -- is available to around one million workers in Australia, according to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, including at big employers like Telstra and Qantas.
Australia's problem with domestic violence, and violence against women, is well known. One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since age 15. One in four have experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner. Women are five times more likely than men to require medical attention or hospitalisation as a result of intimate partner violence, and five times more likely to report fearing for their lives. Of those women who experience violence, more than half have children in their care.
Federal and state leaders will meet for another Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on Friday in Canberra, with homelessness funding and domestic violence leading the agenda. Palaszczuk said on Thursday that she would be pushing for national guidelines for domestic violence leave, saying Queensland "was the first state with legislated domestic and family violence leave arrangements", which includes 10 days of paid leave.
"Family and domestic violence is a national issue and we need a national approach. The work of so many, including the courageous leadership of former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty, has ensured there is a spotlight on these issues," she said.
"I would like to see family and domestic violence leave rolled out across the country as a National Employment Standard."
The idea of including domestic violence leave into national employment standards has been raised by multiple trade unions across the country. Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, told The Huffington Post Australia in November that her union wanted to see the condition enshrined in federal standards.
"Unions are advocating for domestic violence leave to be included not only in new enterprise agreements but also in awards and the national employment standard," Flood said.
"If we are, as a community, going to seriously deal with family violence then we need to understand that being able to keep a job and have a sympathetic employer is fundamental for someone to get out of an abusive situation."
The Australian Council of Trade Unions said in a statement on Thursday that it would be mounting a Fair Work Commission case to have the condition inserted in all modern workplace awards.
"It is everybody's business, and all of us have the moral imperative to do whatever we can to help – and this includes providing financial as well as emotional support in the workplace," said ACTU secretary Dave Oliver.
"Union members are calling for 10 days paid leave per year for all Australian workers -- which can be the difference between someone remaining trapped in a dangerous situation or escaping -- and we need decisive action from state and federal leaders at COAG.
"This is the perfect opportunity for Michaelia Cash to show some leadership and make one of the most important social and industrial social interventions of recent times – one that will change cultural attitudes, prevent violence, and save lives."
The push for domestic violence leave has had a mixed reception at a federal level. Minister for Employment and Women, Michaelia Cash, has opposed the idea, saying domestic violence leave would be a "perverse disincentive" for employers to take on female workers. However, social services minister Christian Porter has previously expressed support for the idea.