Workplace support for home strife
MORE than 150,000 federal public servants will get greater access to domestic and family violence leave, as government agencies are told to offer more leave and support to victims.
It is the latest example of employers offering leave to staff who experience domestic violence, just two years after the first agreement was signed at the Surf Coast Shire Council, in Torquay, which offered a world-best 20 days' paid leave.
Other big employers that have since offered schemes include the New South Wales public service, more than 20 Victorian councils, the University of NSW and the Tasmanian government.
Now the Australian Public Service Commission, which advises dozens of agencies, is to announce on Friday that it will offer advice on what paid personal leave can be used for in domestic violence cases. It says it wants a ''consistent'' approach across federal agencies.
That includes allowing time off to attend medical or counselling appointments, court hearings, police appointments, legal advice and getting alternative childcare or schooling for their children.
Once all paid personal leave is exhausted, the circular to agencies, obtained by Fairfax Media, states that ''understanding should be shown and reasonable allowance made'' for extra time off. A spokeswoman said it would be at the discretion of the heads of agencies to decide whether that extra leave was paid or unpaid. She said the purpose of the circular was to ''raise the awareness of Commonwealth agencies'' of the possible impact of domestic and family violence and encourages them to ''think about what support can be provided''.
The move is significant because as of last year, the Australian public service employed 166,495 across 97 agencies. But it is less generous than other schemes that offer specific paid domestic violence leave, in some cases unlimited.
The Community and Public Sector Union's national secretary, Nadine Flood, welcomed the move.
''We would encourage public service agencies to get behind these initiatives and do all they can to provide practical and sensitive support to staff caught up in domestic or family violence situations,'' she said.
According to Bureau of Statistics figures, about one in six women had experienced domestic violence from either a previous or current partner.
Staying in paid work is regarded as vital to help victims of abuse escape from violent relationships. Work can often be the only link to a world away from abuse.
Unions and activists are pushing to have paid family violence leave made a universal workplace right, which has not won the support of the major parties.