Flexible work for violence victims hailed
Campaigners against domestic violence have hailed as a ''fantastic breakthrough'' a Gillard government move to give victims of domestic violence the right to request changes to their hours.
Under the changes to national employment standards, workers experiencing violence will be able to request flexible work while workers caring for victims will also be able to ask for flexible hours.
The changes to the national workplace safety net are separate to the rapid uptake of paid domestic violence leave in the past two years, which has resulted in about one million workers in Australia gaining access to paid leave.
That has come through bargaining by unions and can include leave of up to 20 days - a world-leading workplace right.
Ludo McFerran, national manager of the Safe at Home, Safe at Work project, said Australia was leading the world on the issue and said the changes by the Gillard government were a ''fantastic breakthrough''.
''I think it's a really great acknowledgment of this issue, I know it's a first step.''
Ms McFerran said employers allowing flexible working hours was important but she said they would continue to campaign so that workers had a right to appeal if a request was rejected. ''Being brave enough to disclose to your employer that you need flexible work arrangements because you're a victim of domestic violence should not lead to rejection."
Ms McFerran said the changes were important as people experiencing domestic violence were often harassed at work or their work suffered from the abuse. Work was often the most important link to a world away from the violence.
The right to request flexible hours has also been extended to carers, older workers and parents of school-age children. There are also changes giving the right to request part-time work when returning from parental leave.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott called on the government to consult business before pursuing the changes, arguing increased regulation could make it harder for businesses to survive.
''There is a question about why this issue is being given priority when there is already the capacity to request flexible arrangements, and when there are many other aspects of the Act which are harming competitiveness and posing a real threat to jobs,'' she said.
The government used question time on Monday to spruik its planned changes to flexible work request rules, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard saying it was important to keep modernising the law.
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said the government understood families came in all shapes and sizes and the changes would help encourage participation.