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Domestic violence leave is gaining traction, but some argue "divvie" will become the new "sickie."

Workers may be familiar with sick leave and compassionate leave, but now there is another type of leave gaining traction in Australia: domestic violence leave.

More than half of major private sector employers have introduced domestic violence leave in the past year, and one-third have a formal policy.

But Australia’s Fair Work Act does not presently provide workers with a right to domestic violence leave.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is hoping to change that with its submission to the Fair Work Commission this year calling for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave, and an additional two days of unpaid leave, in all modern awards.

The ACTU also propose that employees providing support to someone experiencing domestic violence are entitled to the same leave. This, they say, will make it easier for survivors of domestic violence to manage tasks like leaving home and seeking legal aid, while remaining in paid employment.

Companies such as Bankwest and Virgin Australia ask for proof of domestic violence, in the form of a document issued by police, a doctor, or a lawyer, for example.

Virgin Australia's domestic violence leave policy. Image supplied.

Alternatively, Qantas' policy states employees must prove they used the time off to seek help, in the form of medical appointments or counselling, arranging accommodation, or attending legal proceedings.

But despite these strides, a number of public voices fundamentally disagree with the idea of 'domestic violence leave'. Columnist Miranda Devine published a tweet in November asking, "how does DV leave stop DV, exactly?"

"If anything it encourages it, or at least false reports. "Divvie" the new "sickie". Another union rort."

What followed was a debate between several women about the value of providing domestic violence leave.

"It enables women dealing with financial abuse to get immediate help without worrying about lost income," wrote one woman in response to Devine's tweet.

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"So DV leave gives peace of mind on income security, while letting women address other facets of abuse," she continued.

But Devine insisted, "That's what other leave is for. Don't need to create a new class of leave."

"I just don't believe anyone should have to chew through their sick leave because they are fleeing violence," replied the woman.

Furthermore, Minister for Women Michaelia Cash argues domestic violence leave would mean fewer jobs for women, and more barriers to their employment. In May she said, "€œI think you have to be very careful as a policymaker in saying to businesses, an employee can now take an additional four weeks leave that you pay for."

"Do you put in a perverse disincentive that '€˜I just won'€™t employ women'?"€™

Minister for Women Michaelia Cash with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Image via Getty.

Similarly, many others argue the claim for 10 days paid domestic violence leave, made by the ACTU, will be a huge economic burden.

Indeed, as the chair of the Australian Industry Group, Innes Willox, argues, "Paid domestic violence leave is extremely uncommon internationally."

The only country to enforce this policy at a national level is the Philippines, but, according to Willox, "the entitlement is not well-known in the country or well-enforced."

Nonetheless, there are major strides in the UK, the US, New Zealand and Canada to introduce paid domestic leave, and there are countless unions, employers, and lay people who believe giving women extra workplace support when it comes to this troubling issue can only be a good thing.

Where do you stand when it comes to domestic violence leave?

The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

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