Landmark paid domestic violence leave decision hailed as 'complete game changer'

Victims of domestic violence could be entitled to 10 days of paid leave after a landmark decision by the Fair Work Commission this week, but while Labor is in agreement, the Coalition says further consultation is required.

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Samantha Schulte is a survivor of domestic violence. Source: Supplied

This article contains references to domestic violence.

Samantha Schulte has vivid memories of the afternoon she called Centrelink for help.

A victim of domestic violence, Ms Schulte was “financially not coping”.

While the government offers assistance to victims of domestic violence, she was kept on hold for 40 minutes.

And that was a problem because Ms Schulte’s lunch break at work was only 30 minutes long.
“I laid on my office floor, with the door shut, on my mobile, because I was exhausted,” Ms Schulte told SBS News.

“I was on hold for 40 minutes at least before I got to speak to somebody.”

That afternoon was not an isolated incident.

Before her marriage ended in December 2018, Ms Schulte had to endure five years of domestic violence.

Five years of trying to seek assistance.

Five years of lunch breaks that were not long enough.

“When you’re a victim of domestic violence, trying to seek help is a full-time job. It’s a full-time job to be a survivor. It’s a full-time job being a parent,” said Ms Schulte, who lives with her two young children in Townsville, Queensland.

Millions of Australians could now be entitled to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave, after a landmark decision handed down by the Fair Work Commission on Monday.

Ms Schulte said this could make a world of difference for people like her, who are too scared to seek help when they’re at home and too busy to do so when they’re at work.
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Hayley Foster is the CEO of support group Full Stop Australia.
Hayley Foster — the CEO of domestic and sexual violence support organisation Full Stop Australia — said the paid leave would be “a complete game changer [for] women’s economic security”.

“It takes a lot to leave a domestic violence situation,” Ms Foster told SBS News.

“There can be appointments with police, court hearings, trying to find alternative accommodation, counselling, trying to sort out arrangements for your children … so people who are in that situation need to have that time as paid leave,” she said.

Under the current national employment standards that apply to all employees, victims of domestic violence are entitled to five days of unpaid leave.

While Labor has committed to changing that to 10 days of paid leave if it ends up forming a government after Saturday's election, the Coalition has remained non-committal.

In a statement to SBS News, Attorney-General Michaelia Cash said further consultation and deliberation on the matter is needed.

“We will consult with relevant stakeholders, especially family and domestic violence advocacy groups and small business employers on its implications,” Senator Cash said.
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Anne Nalder is the CEO of the Small Business Association of Australia.
Anne Nalder is the CEO of the Small Business Association of Australia, which represents more than 60,000 small businesses across the country.

“Domestic violence is a terrible thing. It takes a toll on men, women, children and other loved ones around them,” Ms Nalder told SBS News.

“When there’s serious domestic violence, time is usually required to sort things out,” she added, supporting the industrial umpire’s in-principle decision.

But not everyone is equally supportive of the Fair Work Commission’s decision.

Glen Dale owns a small business of five restaurants on the Gold Coast.
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Glen Dale is a small business owner on the Gold Coast.
He’s already struggling to find enough staff for his business.

“I have got a couple of restaurants I can’t open at nighttime because I don’t have enough staff. And the other three, I don’t open at lunchtime because I don’t have enough staff,” he told SBS News.

Mr Dale is concerned having to offer more paid leave to an already skeleton staff will add to his woes.

Full Stop Australia's Ms Foster says there’s also a lack of clarity on who would cover the cost of the paid domestic violence leave — the government or the employer.

And that’s a cause of concern for Mr Dale.

“Passing that cost to a small business would be horrendous,” he said, adding even if the government covers that cost, small businesses will still have to cover the bookkeeping costs.

“Maternity leave is paid by the government at the moment. But the small business has to implement it, which is another bookkeeping [cost],” he said.

Alexi Boyd — the CEO of The Council of Small Business Organisations Australia — said a lack of skill around how to deal with instances of domestic violence in the small business community is another challenge.

“Small businesses are not empowered or have the skills to be able to determine if someone is a domestic violence victim,” Ms Boyd told SBS News.

“Small businesses don’t have HR departments that can navigate this … so this puts small businesses in a difficult position."
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Australian Council of Trade Unions President Michele O’Neil. Credit:
But the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), which has long lobbied for a minimum of 10 days paid domestic violence leave, is adamant the “new entitlement will save lives”.

“Giving women the financial support they need to leave violent and abusive relationships can be the difference between life and death,” ACTU President Michele O’Neil told SBS News.

“No one should have to make a choice between their income and their safety or the safety of their family,” Ms O’Neil said, adding “the Morrison government has been lagging behind” in this area.

But in the statement to SBS News, Senator Cash argued the Morrison government is already doing a lot on this front.

“The Morrison government is investing $2.5 billion over the first five years of the next National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children, focusing on prevention, early intervention, response and recovery,” she said.

“This includes the Escaping Violence Payment, which provides up to $5,000 to help victim-survivors establish a home and a life free from violence."

If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit . In an emergency, call 000.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, visit or find an . Resources for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders can be found at

The Men’s Referral Service provides advice for men on domestic violence and can be contacted on 1300 766 491.

6 min read
Published 18 May 2022 at 6:41pm, updated 18 May 2022 at 6:56pm
By Akash Arora
Source: SBS News