Paid leave for domestic violence victims is being included in union pay deals for the first time after a big rise in reported abuse.
Several recent agreements have provided up to 10 days leave — on top of sick leave — for victims of domestic violence, including physical, sexual, financial, verbal and emotional abuse.
WA Police recorded a 10.5 per cent increase to 10,796 incidents of domestic assaults during the past financial year — just over 1000 more than the number reported the previous year.
The true extent of abuse is unknown because most cases are not reported.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry railed against the new leave provisions, claiming it was too much of a burden on small business.
“Domestic violence is an important issue for society as a whole, but it is not a workplace issue and it is not clear how placing an additional cost on business would contribute meaningfully to solving this community issue,” chamber manager of employee relations consulting Paul Moss said.
But UnionsWA president Meredith Hammat said victims would have a better chance of surviving and leaving an abusive relationship if they could raise the issue with employers.
“If someone is humiliated, physically or sexually assaulted in their home, it will affect their attendance and productivity at work,” she said.
“Most employers don’t know the reasons for that lost time.”
The maritime union was the first in WA to negotiate the clause, recently including five days of domestic violence leave in an agreement with Geraldton Port Authority.
Assistant secretary Will Tracey said the union would seek to include the leave in all future agreements.
GPA chief executive Peter Klein admitted it could be difficult to determine exactly what constituted abuse, but said a human resources manager had been trained to deal with applications on a case-by-case basis.
Mr Klein said workers would not necessarily need a doctor’s or police certificate to claim the leave.
“It’s not a matter of nannying employees, but staff need to understand that help is available,” he said.
On Monday, Senator Louise Pratt will launch an information kit for workers experiencing abuse called Safe at Home, Safe at Work.