Domestic violence affects over a million women in Australia and it is time for federal discrimination laws to catch up and ensure women are not discriminated against in the workplace because of the violence they face in the home, said Greens Senator and spokesperson for women Lee Rhiannon.
Today the Senate passed Senator Rhiannon’s motion calling on the federal government to include domestic violence as a separate ground of discrimination and making such discrimination unlawful in the workplace (motion in full below).
“Our existing discrimination laws are not up to the task and, as a result, thousands of women suffer a double harm – on top of the domestic violence, they are discriminated against in the workplace
because of associated disability, illness and forced absenteeism”, said Senator Rhiannon.
“Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has a chance to make a real difference to women’s lives by recognising domestic violence in the government’s soon to be released draft bill consolidating discrimination laws.
“A failure to act will see the government slip behind private companies that have already incorporated domestic violence clauses into job contracts. Domestic violence clauses have also been introduced for public sector employees in NSW and Queensland.
“A similar motion has been put forward by Labor in the lower house but it backs away from pushing for government action.
“Women who experience violence are statistically more likely than women who have not experienced violence to have prolonged absenteeism and more frequent job changes. This disrupted work history has a profound and lasting impact on women’s finances.
“Formal recognition would mean that women have access to leave to attend court, move into shelters and care for their children when needed.
“Reform is happening too slowly for the estimated 1.2 million women around Australia over the age of 15 have experienced domestic or family violence. Almost two thirds of those women affected by domestic violence are in some type of employment, according to research by the Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse.
“Domestic violence is squarely a workplace issue and needs to be specifically recognised in federal discrimination laws”, said Senator Rhiannon.
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Motion to the Senate
That the Senate –
1. Notes that:
a) Two-thirds of women in Australia affected by domestic violence are in some form of paid employment;
b) Violence against women and children will cost the Australian economy $15.6 billion by 2022 unless effective action is taken to prevent it;
c) Domestic violence can have a significant impact on the employment of women who are subjected to it, due to lost productivity as a result of distraction in the workplace, absenteeism due to physical and psychological injuries, disrupted work histories as victims often frequently change jobs, and lower personal incomes and reduced hours of work.
d) It is common for victims and survivors of domestic and family violence to be denied leave to attend to violence-related matters, such as attending court or moving into a shelter.
2. Calls on the Government to:
a) Consider introducing domestic and family violence as a separate ground of discrimination;
b) Consider making discrimination related to domestic and family violence unlawful in the workplace;
c) Urge all private companies and public sectors to include domestic violence clauses in their enterprise agreements.
Question agreed to.