Discrimination against millions of female employers and business operators must not happen
COSBOA believes that the continued call for domestic violence leave (DVL) is misdirected and is also blatant discrimination against millions of small business people who may be victims.
Peter Strong, nurse CEO of COSBOA, said today “there are around two million women in business in Australia; some half a million are employers and the rest are in home-based businesses or are contractors. They are ignored as potential victims. Worse still the employers who are victims may have to provide leave to other victims and then work harder to cover that leave. How can the ACTU be so ignorant of the needs of so many working women?
COSBOA supports the call by the AI Group to leave domestic violence management to the enterprises and the people involved. It is far too complicated and dangerous to have in awards where employers will become responsible for unpredictable outcomes and will likely end up in a lose/lose situation. This would be even worse for the employers and business operators who are also victims, they will be doubly victimised.
Mr Strong added “imagine a woman is trying to run a business and work her way through a terrible domestic situation and then a staff member demands time off to manage her own situation; that would be devastating. This creates more work and costs for the employer. This must not happen.
If we do have leave at all it should be paid for by government the same as paid parental leave and managed by the welfare sector. But we should not have the leave approved as it just institutionalises a problem, it doesn’t solve it.” (see here for further information)
Below are some thoughts on domestic violence leave from a woman who has run a business for many years and employed many people. She, for obvious reasons, needs to be anonymous. Her example and thoughts are telling.
A female business operator’s thoughts & experiences with Domestic Violence
“Domestic Violence Leave – this is the topic that has been really going around in my head. I grew up in a household that was impacted by domestic violence – so when considering this topic – I find it difficult to be detached from the emotion in the topic. (Even to write the prior sentence was hard work.) I have also as an employer assisted an employee with a domestic violence situation. I found this employee sitting at her desk crying and shaking. I took her to a private room and she confided in me that her partner was violent, and that the previous evening she had asked him to leave their home – which he had done in an emotive manner. I assisted her with information on resources in the community, called a lock smith and organised for the locks to be changed at her home, put in place measures that she would be accompanied to and from her car each day and gave her time off to deal with a number of matters that she needed to attend to – ie. close joint bank accounts.
Two weeks later the couple reconciled – and I was then in the situation of having to attend work social events with the employee and her partner and act as if I knew nothing. I don’t believe that I hold the skills to be involved in such a situation and in this instance, the employee actually became very bitter towards me as an expression of her discomfort about her domestic situation being exposed in her workplace.
Also – I am struggling to find the right way to express this thought, but in my mind, Domestic Violence Leave almost feels like it is normalising and giving into DV. Just as it is perceived as being OK, or a right, by so many to “chuck a sickie”, and there are employees that make sure that every type of leave available to them is used in full every year – I can see a situation arising of some employees making sure they use their quota of DV leave – just because it is there. DV is never OK, it should never be normalised – and I strongly believe that the reduction in DV will change when power imbalances are changed, and when more women are financially independent, and when little girls are raised with the expectation of being financially independent, then the power balance in society changes and DV will reduce. DV should never be reduced to being part of the mindset of getting a few extra days off in the year. Small Business owners are not equipped with the skills and knowledge to manage such fraught situations.”
In the end how will DVL be managed? Will a certificate have to be produced? It has been suggested that an employer would know as it would be obvious – it is often not obvious. There are plenty of victims who don’t want it discussed especially in the workplace. We have also suggested that there would be some people who falsely claim the DVL (as mentioned above). This was ridiculed the comment being “no one would do that”. When we point out that no employer would refuse to assist an employee in trouble, that was also ridiculed.