Workplace

Commonwealth Bank Now Largest Australian Employer To Offer Unlimited Domestic Violence Leave

One in six Australian women will experience family violence.

By Natalie Cornish

Workplace

One in six Australian women will experience family violence.

By Natalie Cornish

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has announced it will offer unlimited paid leave to any staff member affected by domestic or family violence, as part of its ongoing commitment to tackling the nationwide epidemic head-on.

The financial institution previously offered its employees 10-days paid domestic violence leave. Now the bank – who have pledged $30m to help victims of family violence nationwide – says they will provide support beyond “emergency situations”, allowing staff directly affected paid time off for medical appointments and counselling sessions, or to secure safe housing and meet legal obligations. Those supporting an immediate family member, or a member of their household, through DV concerns will also now be entitled to five-days of paid leave.

Sian Lewis, Group Executive of Human Resources at Commonwealth Bank, said domestic or family violence was “a cause close to our heart” because financial abuse is often a factor – and the issue directly impacts many of the corporation’s 48,000 employees.

Lewis said: “Due to the size of our workforce and the horrifying scale of this issue in our community, we know we have many people who work here who are directly impacted by domestic and family violence. As one of Australia’s largest employers, it is our responsibility to support our people when they need it the most.”

She added: “Domestic and family violence comes in many forms and can impact a diverse range of people. We need to be flexible enough to accommodate different situations, while also continuing to build a culture that allows our people to feel properly supported to speak up and seek help.”

“We know we have many people who work here who are directly impacted and it is our responsibility to support them when they need it the most.”

Women’s charities have welcomed Commonwealth Bank’s revised family violence procedure, saying it should set the standard for domestic violence policy at major corporations across Australia. Currently, employers must allow for a minimum five unpaid days of domestic violence leave but unions have been campaigning for a mandated 10 to 20 days.

Family violence is a major health and welfare issue across Australia. One in six Australian women and one in 16 men have been subjected, since the age of 15, to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabiting partner, according to government statistics.

This has wide-reaching implications; intimate partner violence causes more illness, disability and deaths than any other risk factor for women aged 25–44, while 72,000 women, 34,000 children and 9,000 men sought homelessness services in 2016–17 due to family and/or domestic violence, an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study found.

Women are most at risk, especially those who are pregnant, disabled, experiencing financial hardship, separating from their partners or from indigenous backgrounds.

“This is just the start of changes we’re making to address the impact of domestic and family violence on our workplace,” Lewis added. “We will continue to listen to our people, partner with leading community organisations, academics, survivors and advocates to ensure we’re providing the best support.”

Flower image credit: Fine Art Photography/Getty Images

If this article brings up any issues for you, or if you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732), the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.