Business Council of Australia boss Jennifer Westacott wants paid domestic violence leave to become a universal human right.
She made the call during her address to the first day of the National Summit on Women’s Safety.
Westacott said poor support for victims is a key barrier to women’s full economic participation.
Domestic violence costs $22 billion
According to a 2016 PwC report, family and domestic violence costs the Australian economy $22 billion.
Meanwhile, Victoria’s 2016 royal commission on family violence put the cost in that state alone at $5.3 billion.
Westacott also praised employers already offering 10 days or unlimited paid domestic violence leave.
She said such leave provides crucial time for victims to to get their lives back in order, whether that be arranging accommodation or seeking legal advice.
Corporate Australia needs to step up
Westacott called on the government, unions and corporate Australia to step up.
“We think we should work towards this being universal entitlement, it should not depend on who your employer is,” she said.
“We know there are huge transition issues here for small business, and they’re going to need extra assistance.
“What we would like to see, coming out of today, is government unions, business, setting up a working group to actually work through how you would do paid domestic violence leave.”
During her address, Westacott revealed the abuse her mother faced at the hands of her father.
She described the humiliation her mother faced at work and the long time she waited for help.
“I grew up watching my mother put up with things that most people shouldn’t put up with in their lives and putting up with it as a kid,” she said.
“I think people forget that it is not just a pile of statistics.
“People forget that violence is actually degrading, and humiliating, and for people to just get up and get to work, and it’s all OK, is very difficult for people.”
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