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City council accepts 20 days’ paid domestic violence leave

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Adelaide City Council staff will vote to have access to one month of paid domestic violence leave each year – on top of existing personal, sick and annual leave – following months of negotiations with the Australian Services Union.

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The ASU – the union representing local government staff – received confirmation from city council management yesterday afternoon that the council had dropped their initial proposal to force long-term employees experiencing domestic violence to take 12 days of accrued personal leave before accessing special domestic violence leave.

Council management has instead accepted an ASU request for employees to have direct access to 20 days of special paid domestic violence leave on top of their 12 days of accrued personal leave and other sick and annual leave entitlements.

The provisions are not expected to be formalised until a staff vote, expected in the coming weeks, following 11 months of enterprise bargaining with the union.

It comes as the council will vote on a motion put forward by area councillor and anti-domestic violence campaigner Arman Abrahimzadeh tonight, which calls on the council to investigate implementing a “workplace equality and respect” program for employees to better respond to domestic violence.

Abrahimzadeh told InDaily yesterday that the program would ideally be run by a not-for profit domestic violence organisation such as Our Watch Australia or White Ribbon Australia, and would outline strategies to better protect staff when they are at work, as well as start conversations about the impacts of violence in the family home.

He declined to comment yesterday afternoon about the council management’s decision to accept 20 days’ paid domestic violence leave.

ASU state branch secretary Abbie Spencer described domestic violence as a “scourge in our community”, with about one woman being murdered by her current or former partner in Australia each week.

“Workers need access to paid leave to escape violent situations, find new accommodation and access legal support,” she said.

“This is why it’s so positive that (the) City of Adelaide has listened to ASU members and will implement 20 days paid domestic violence leave in its new union enterprise agreement.

“City of Adelaide’s commitment to 20 days paid domestic violence leave will send a strong message to all their staff that they have the council’s support if they are experiencing domestic violence and will send a strong message to employers across our state that they can take practical action on domestic violence.”

Port Adelaide Enfield and Victor Harbor Councils have already committed to 20 days’ paid domestic violence leave for staff, while Whyalla Council has a 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave entitlement.

In a statement to InDaily, Adelaide City Council customer and people associate director Vanessa Godden said the council was hopeful that the ASU and their representatives were now ready to finalise the enterprise agreement.

“The City of Adelaide recognises that employees sometimes face situations of violence or abuse in their personal life that may affect their attendance or performance at work and we are committed to providing support to employees who experience family and domestic violence,” she said.

“Our employees who have found themselves in these challenging circumstances have always had access to paid special leave in need (in addition to a variety of other support mechanisms) and we are pleased to be able to formalise 20 days’ special paid leave into our enterprise agreements so that it is clear our people know up front what is available to them should they need it.

“While we have yet to finalise the Enterprise Agreement negotiations, after negotiating and agreeing on over 35 claims from all representatives over the last 11 months that improve our enterprise agreement and will benefit all of our employees, we are hopeful that the ASU and their representatives are now ready to finalise the agreement and allow our people to vote on it.”

In July, Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor told the chamber that the council approved requests from employees experiencing domestic violence to change their work hours, telephone number or office location.

She also said council staff experiencing domestic violence had access to a counselling service.

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