Greenacres employee Jacqui Charlesworth has welcomed her employer’s decision to introduce paid domestic violence leave.
The 35-year-old woman, who has Mosaic Down’s syndrome, still bears the emotional scars of a violent, controlling relationship and now speaks out to help others.
She urged other Illawarra organisations to follow the lead of Greenacres, which is introducing up to 10 days paid domestic violence leave for its 540 employees, including many with a disability.
‘’Women – or men – experiencing domestic violence don’t want to go to work bearing the physical signs – the cuts and bruises,’’ Ms Charlesworth said. ‘’It’s also hard to work while dealing with the emotional scars.
‘’But having an employer who is going to support you through it, and ensure you have time off to deal with your situation, is fantastic.’’
Greenacres CEO Chris Christodoulou said statistics revealed that while one in four Australian women would experience domestic violence, a woman with a disability was 40 per cent more likely to be a victim.
The disability services organisation is already working with the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre to reduce these figures, through the development of an awareness program for employees.
Mr Christodoulou said the provision of paid domestic violence leave would now ensure affected employees had the time to use medical services, find safe accommodation and seek help from police and social workers.
‘’Our union is the Australian Services Union (ASU) which at the moment is campaigning for domestic violence leave provisions for their members generally,’’ Mr Christodoulou said.
‘’Apart from having vulnerable people with disabilities that we employ, we also have a sizeable general workforce that supports them.
‘’We would not want any of our employees, whether they have a disability or not, to feel they had to stay in a violent situation because they could not get the time off work that they needed.’’
Mr Christodoulou said while the plan would come with a financial cost, ‘’workers’ safety is a priority’’.
‘’If they are experiencing domestic violence, it may be that their work performance is being affected by that, and we’d prefer to be proactive rather than reactive.’’
Natalie Lang, NSW/ACT Secretary of the ASU, will be in Wollongong on Friday to talk to Greenacres staff at an employee forum.
‘’The ASU applauds Greenacres for ensuring that all of its employees have access to domestic violence leave,’’ she said. ‘’As the frontline workers in the community sector, our members see first-hand the impact domestic violence has on women and families and we know that universal paid domestic violence leave will save lives.’’