The Australian Council of Trade Unions has released daunting new figures showing how costly and difficult it is for victims of abusive relationships to leave.
The ACTU has launched a campaign calling on the federal government and the Fair Work Commission to implement ten days of paid family and domestic violence leave for Australian workers attempting to escape abuse.
An advertisement features the testimonies of frontline workers, who detail their experiences with victims of domestic violence. It aims to shed further light on the complexities and financial strains involved with escaping abuse.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said victims of domestic violence really struggle to escape the violence whilst also staying to work commitments every day.
“Without paid leave, you can’t leave. Leaving a violent relationship takes on average $18,000 and 141 hours,” Ms Kearney said.
“Paid leave is essential for women who are escaping violence. Relocation and accessing support takes time and money, being forced out of work is a disaster for anyone, let alone in these circumstances.”
“We have to change the rules to include paid leave for domestic violence leave within the National Employment Standards.”
The ACTU has long argued for such changes. In July, Fair Work rejected paid family violence leave, but agreed unpaid leave should be available to affected employees.
Breaking down the financial burden
By the ACTU’s estimates, the costs involved with leaving such relationships include truck hire ($260), solicitors ($2500 for the initial appearance, $5000 for court appearances), and rent ($3000 bond and four weeks rent).
While the most time-consuming elements include finding a new property (40 hours), seeking support groups and Centrelink benefits (32 hours) and moving (14 hours).
“Physical and financial security go hand in hand for people experiencing family and domestic violence. We need to change the rules to stop women being forced out of work by the actions of abusive partners.”
Advocacy groups support paid leave push
Alison McDonald, the Policy and Program Manager at Domestic Violence Victoria, told SBS News many women firstly consider their financial capacity when contemplating leaving an abusive relationship.
“We know that when women and children leave a violent relationship that is actually the most dangerous time, this is when risk escalates and in fact it’s when you see most family-related homicides occur,” she said.
Ms McDonald supports the calls for ten day paid leave, adding that financial abuse is a common tactic used to force victims to stay.
“Leaving a violent relationship comes with a whole heap of complexities. We really need to support women and children to do this in a safe way,” she said.
“Where you’ve got the support of your workplace to do so, it can really make the difference between whether you do leave or you don’t.”