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Safe at home and safe at work

In 2010, the Australian government established the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children 2010-2022. The plan provides prevention measures, support and “creative ways of bringing about change”.

The Women’s Committee of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, ACTU, is taking an active part in combating domestic violence of which hundreds of thousands of women are victims every year. The Women’s Committee encourages unions to raise awareness about the domestic violence and to take it up as a collective bargaining issue. ACTU has also pronounced itself in favour of legislation that makes domestic violence an industrial issue.

The following text is an extract from an ACTU leaflet which also includes contact details for assistance:

We want you to be safe at home and safe at work.
Health, safety and job security are union issues. In a recent national survey of members of a number of unions, nearly one third reported that they had experienced domestic violence. For half of these workers, the violence had affected their capacity to get to work. For one in five the violence had followed them into work. The violence affected their work performances, putting their safety and their jobs at risk.
It is vitally important to keep these workers safely in their jobs and in their homes, so that they have the economic security to leave the abuse. This is why our union supports creating safe workplaces where workers feel confident to disclose and be effectively supported when experiencing domestic violence. ¨

So what is domestic or family violence?
Domestic or family violence is an abuse of power. It takes many forms including intimidation, control, isolation and emotional, physical, sexual, financial or spiritual abuse. If you feel scared of a partner, ex partner or family member, you may be experiencing domestic or family violence. Domestic violence tends to increase over time, becoming more serious and more frequent.

Your new domestic violence rights at work
To help keep you safe and to minimise the negative impacts of domestic violence, some unions and employers have agreed to a new set of conditions that give workers paid leave to go to court, to an appointment with their bank, their children’s school, their counsellor or any of the many things that they may need to do in a time of crisis. The conditions protect confidentiality and prevent workers from being treated less favourably if they tell their workplace what is happening.

What can I do if I am experiencing domestic or family violence?
• For your protection, we recommend you get a domestic violence protection order.
• A protection order is an order made by a court or Police, restricting the abusive person’s behaviour. It is not a criminal charge and does not give the abusive person a criminal record unless they breach it. It doesn’t mean you have to end your relationship with the abusive person.

• The conditions on the order can be worded to suit your situation. If the abusive person is harassing you at work, you could get an order that stops them from attending or coming near your workplace. A protection order helps you to take the power back and protects you from further violence.

• If your workplace needs proof that you are experiencing domestic violence, you can use this order. By protecting you, the order protects your co-workers as well.

• Talk with your union delegate, supervisor, HR or employer about how your workplace can support you to stay safe in your job.

I've had to take large amounts of sick leave and, when that ran out, annual leave to deal with the effects of an abusive partner. I thought I was going to lose my job. The fear of losing my job made dealing with the emotional and legal issues even more stressful than it already was. Losing all my sick leave and much of my annual leave further adds to the stress.Anonymous email to the Australian Services Union.