Victoria: Victorian public servants have taken more than 1,000 days of family violence leave since the state introduced the provision in public-sector contracts in 2016.
Figures provided to Guardian Australia from the Andrews government show that 143 people from core government agencies, including Victoria police, had applied for a total of 1,033 family violence leave days as of December 31, at a cost of about $360,000.
The figures come as the federal government faces increasing pressure from the Greens, Labor and the unions to include a clause allowing for 10 days of paid family violence leave in the national employment standards.
Victoria’s industrial relations minister, Natalie Hutchins, said the uptake demonstrated the strong support for family violence leave in the public-sector workforce.
“I think people see it as a fundamental right, in particular for women,” Hutchins said. “Quite often women experiencing family violence will exhaust all their other avenues of leave in order to try and cope with the situation that they’re in, and other workmates or line managers might not know exactly what’s going on.
“With family violence leave applications, things are still very confidential, but at least managers in the workplace will know that somebody’s experiencing that and they can provide additional support as well as the time off.”
Figures provided to Guardian Australia only concern about 52,000 employees in seven core government departments as well as Victoria police, VicRoads and the Victorian Public Sector Commission.
About 0.27% of that workforce applied for family violence leave, with the highest proportion in the justice department.
Victoria police, which was by far the largest employer, had the highest number of men applying for family violence leave.
Victoria introduced 20 days of paid family violence leave as a clause in all new public sector enterprise agreements from mid-2016, following a recommendation from the state royal commission into family violence. It gives employees time off to meet legal, medical, counselling, relocation and other requirements associated with managing or exiting a violent relationship.
The Queensland government followed in late 2016, introducing 10 days of family violence leave for all Queensland public-sector employees and joined Victoria in lobbying the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) for national adoption of family violence leave.
The Greens MP Adam Bandt lobbied parliament this week for support for a private member’s bill legislating for 10-days paid leave and Labor in December increased its 2016 election commitment from five days to 10.
The Fair Work Commission has rejected the ACTU’s bid for 10 days of paid family violence leave to be included in all modern awards but left the door open to unpaid leave.
The federal government has also resisted, saying workers experiencing family violence already had the right to request flexible working arrangements and access up to 10 days of personal leave.
“Frankly, these are some of the most generous provisions of any country in the world,” the Liberal MP Sarah Henderson said in parliament on Monday.
Hutchins said that, as a general baseline standard, 10 days of paid leave was appropriate for most industries.
“We think that this is going to make a huge difference, in particular for women and children who are facing family violence, to have some economic security going forward,” she said.