Family and Domestic Violence – A Workplace Issue

Family and domestic violence is a workplace issue, writes Branch Secretary, Barbara Nebart.

The SDA is fully committed to supporting initiatives aimed at removing domestic violence from our society and recognises that Domestic Violence is a workplace issue which can have a significant impact on our members at work.


Why is it a Workplace and Union Issue?

Two thirds of women who have experienced domestic violence are in paid employment.

It is likely that all workplaces have people who have experienced domestic violence or are experiencing domestic violence, as well as those perpetrating the abuse. Domestic and family violence can often result in poverty, homelessness and illness in young women, who constitute the majority of domestic violence victims. 

For those experiencing family and domestic violence, maintaining paid employment and financial independence is vital to having choices to deal with their situation and successfully breaking the cycle of domestic violence and maintaining as far as possible their home and standard of living.

The workplace can also be the safest place for those experiencing domestic violence to find information, and to get the help and support they need to address their situation.

A 2011 Survey of 3600 union members indicated that:

  • 30% had personally experienced domestic violence
  • nearly half reported that it affected their ability to get to work due to:
    • physical injury or restraint
    • hiding keys
    • failing to care for children.
  • 19% of those who experienced domestic violence said the violence continued at work, including:
    • abusive phone calls and emails
    • partners physically coming to work to harass and intimidate them
  • The main reported impact of domestic violence at work was on work performance:
    • being distracted, tired or unwell
    • needing to take time off
    • being late for work.
  • Often these issues can lead to performance management and in some cases dismissal.

The recent report from the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence included a chapter and recommendations regarding the workplace, recognizing the important role workplaces have in preventing and responding to family violence.


How can the SDA help?

If you or someone in your workplace is affected by domestic violence the SDA can help with:

  • information about and access to entitlements,
  • negotiating flexible working arrangements,
  • speaking with management about the impact of domestic violence at work,
  • advice, representation, support if a member faces disciplinary action or dismissal as a result of the impact domestic violence has had on their work performance,
  • developing a safety action plan with management in their workplace if necessary.

For assistance at work please contact your Branch on 4961 4694.


What has the SDA done?

Enterprise Agreements and discussions with employers - Since 2012 the SDA has included a claim for domestic violence leave in all Enterprise Agreements.  We have been very successful negotiating domestic violence leave clauses in most SDA Enterprise Agreements. We also have ongoing discussions with companies about the impact that family and domestic violence can have on members at work and policies they can implement to support employees.

Training for Officials - The SDA has provided information and training to Officials and Delegates/Shop Stewards to assist them to help members who may be experiencing family and domestic violence which is impacting on them at work.

ACTU Claim for Family and Domestic Violence Leave for Awards - The SDA is supporting a claim made by the ACTU to vary all Awards to include paid family and domestic violence leave.  The ACTU is seeking 10 days paid leave per year for employees experiencing family and domestic violence for the purpose of attending legal proceedings, counselling, appointments with a medical or legal practitioner, relocation, the making of safety arrangements and other activities. If successful this entitlement will set the minimum safety net for employees experiencing family and domestic violence which will set the standard for all employees.


Address from 2015 Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty

SDA officials from across the country recently had the privilege of hearing from 2015 Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty.  Rosie discussed the impact of family and domestic violence on the workplace and the vital role workplaces and unions have in supporting employees experiencing the violence, and also the role the workplace can play in creating cultural change and changing attitudes to violence and behaviours to assist the prevention and elimination of family and domestic violence.

Rosie has launched a new campaign – Never Alone - to help give victims of family violence a voice and try and turn these terrible statistics around. To help, Rosie is asking all Australians to sign up to the Never Alone campaign at






















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