Rights won to a leave that saves lives  

NSW unions achieve a significant win on domestic and family violence leave.

Nurses, midwives and other public servants in NSW now have the right to 10 days of paid domestic and family violence leave each year. The right to paid leave was won after years of campaigning by the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association and other public sector unions in the state.

From the first of January this year, over 300,000 public sector workers are able to access t 10 days of domestic and family violence leave without having to use other leave, such as carers leave or personal leave, first.

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association General Secretary Brett Holmes said the right is critical to helping nurses maintain employment and financial stability while escaping a violent and abusive relationship.

“This win by the union movement will make it easier for survivors of domestic and family violence to remain in paid employment while managing stressful and time-consuming tasks, like finding a new home or attending court,” he said.

Victims of abuse will be able to use the paid leave to attend police interviews and court proceedings, seek legal advice and make alternative schooling and accommodation arrangements.

One in three nurses and midwives said they had experienced family and domestic violence when the association surveyed members about the issue in 2011.

The decision for NSW public servants is a vast improvement on a Fair Work Commission decision last year which gave victims of abuse just five days unpaid domestic violence leave.

Brett Holmes praised the nurses and midwives who have advocated for this reform in NSW, along with unions such as the ASU. He added that the Association will continue to support the ACTU campaign to extend the right to all workers.

“Nurses are not just affected by family and domestic violence in their own lives, at work they are at the frontline caring for victims of abuse. Our members see the devastating impact it has on individuals, families and communities.”

Campaign continues to extend leave to all workers

On average one woman a week dies in Australia at the hands of an intimate partner or an ex-partner. According to ABS figures, two thirds of women who are subjected to family violence are in paid work. The ACTU President Michele O’Neil says extending the right to paid leave to all workers will help save lives.

“We have to change the rules for people experiencing family and domestic violence. No one should be forced to choose between their income and their safety.

“We need 10 days of paid family violence leave included in the National Employment Standards.”

Dr Kate Farhall, a postdoctoral research fellow at RMIT University, says “research shows that finances and domestic violence are inextricably linked”.

Financial hardship “can bind women to abusive relationships”, while ongoing employment can be critical in supporting women to leave abusive relationships. Employment can “also serve to psychologically bolster victims,” she says.

Unfortunately, victims of domestic violence experience higher rates of part-time and casual work, lower retirement savings and a lack of job stability, Dr Farhall says.

“Many lose their jobs as a direct result of violence. Victims of domestic violence are also more likely to experience food insecurity, to struggle to find affordable housing and cover the basic essentials like utility bills.” 

How to get help

If you’re experiencing family and domestic violence or are concerned for a friend or colleague, phone NSW Rape Crisis Centre (Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence)

Contact: nswrapecrisis.com.au or 1800 424 017