Domestic violence leave divides the country


The latest gender equality scorecard reveals the truth about just how much support victims of domestic violence receive in Australian workplaces.

Australian businesses have stalled on offering domestic violence leave, with almost one in two workplaces without policies that give victims time off.

According to the latest gender equality scorecard, released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) on Wednesday, 52.6 per cent of the 4697 organisations surveyed offered access to leave for domestic violence victims in 2015-16.

In the preceding year, the figure was 52.4 per cent. In 2014, it was was 48.6 per cent.

Growth stagnated despite more businesses reporting having “formal” policies or strategies to support victims of domestic violence: 39.3 per cent, up from 34.9 per cent in 2015.

In May, Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said requiring businesses to adopt domestic violence leave might provide a "perverse disincentive" to employers considering hiring women.

WGEA has altered its methodology for its scorecard this year to ask more detailed questions related to domestic violence support.

This year's report provides the first comprehensive snapshot into the policies of Australian workplaces.

But it means information about trends related to dedicated domestic violence leave won't be available until next year.

Fiona McCormack, CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria, said the distinction between this type of dedicated leave and other forms of personal leave was important, and that her organisation supported the case presently before the Fair Work Commission for ten days of paid family violence leave to be introduced into all modern awards.

"The support a workplace can provide a worker experiencing family violence can be a critical part of her safety strategy," she said.

Labor employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor reaffirmed his party’s commitment to include paid domestic and family violence leave in the National Employment Standards when contacted by SBS. These standards set minimum requirements for all Australian workers.

"Unlike the Liberals, Labor recognises that both government and employers have a role in, and responsibility for, responding to domestic and family violence,” he said.

Senator Cash has been contacted for comment.

The research covers 12,000 employers and four million employees - two in every five Australian workers.

The scorecard also shows women on average are still earning nearly $27,000 a year less than men despite making up half of the workforce.

And the salary gap rises to more than $93,000 at top management levels.

The latest gender equality scorecard also shows five out of six CEOs are men, with women holding 37.4 per cent of all manager roles.

"It shouldn't be happening in 2016," the agency's director Libby Lyons told ABC radio.

"There should be no gender pay gap at all but unfortunately it is persistent."

Ms Lyons nominates an unconscious bias and discrimination as the main causes behind the gap.

"You will always reward those who look and sound like you," she says.

The director believes women are not as good as negotiating for themselves.

"We undervalue ourselves as women and I guess that's something we really have to address as a cohort."

Asked whether recent action in Iceland, where women left work two hours early to protest over the gender pay gap, could be replicated here, Ms Lyon said it's not the best way to highlight the issue.

"I would prefer to see women ask their organisations what positive measures they are taking to address the gender pay gap in their organisation."

It's not all bad news, with some improvement in key indicators, including greater movement of women into management roles and more work by bosses to address equality.

The agency's third year of data covers 12,000 employers and four million employees.

-with AAP


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