3 common excuses for not providing domestic violence leave and how to blow the lid off them

Domestic violence leave is increasingly being recognised as a necessity and offered by more and more employers. Lately there’s been a lot of rhetoric about whether it should be included in all modern awards.

For what it’s worth, I vote yes (and you should too)! But not everyone does, including the Minister for Women and Employment and the Minister for Finance.

Below are 3 common excuses for not implementing domestic violence leave and why they’re crap (in my humble opinion). Pull out these rebuttals at work or at the pub; wherever you need to do a bit of disrupting ;)

Excuse #1: It’ll be misused by employees chucking a “Divvie”

Why it’s a crap excuse:

Obviously there’ll be people who abuse it. There always is. That’s why this excuse is so crap.  Can you imagine if we didn’t have personal leave entitlements because of the concern that some people might misuse the process? Because of the risk that some people might misuse the process, all those who genuinely need sick leave are denied their entitlements. Ridiculous, right?

Some people will definitely abuse it; most will never use it, including many who need it (because of shame, stigma, stereotypes, you name it, associated with domestic violence victims); but for those who need it and choose to use it, it can make a real difference in their lives.


Excuse #2: It’s too expensive

Why this excuse is bullshit:

Let me ask you this: what is more expensive; 7 days of domestic violence leave, or staff turn-over?

Let’s think this though; new staff bring diversity, fresh perspectives and new ideas, but there is lag-time and there are costs.

Not only do employers need to invest in tangible recruitment costs (like the actual recruitment process, expenses of hiring a temp while the position is vacant, etc), but there’s also less tangible (but just as significant) expenses. This includes things like that transition phase of lost corporate knowledge or expertise (from having someone leave) to having to fill a new vessel with the skills, knowledge and training to fill the gap. It takes time, it takes patience, it can also initially take more supervision and training time.

Realistically, staff turn-over causes a bit of a burden and strain on the organisation. So why would an employer want to go down this path when they already have a perfectly good employee who wants to keep their job, but just needs a little support? Many do not and are leading the way by providing DV leave for their staff.

Additionally, it can be hard to attract committed and skilled staff in the first instance, depending on the industry. Gen Ys are increasing in the workforce as young professionals and they want to work for employers who give a crap.  So not only can domestic violence leave help employers retain staff, but it can help them to attract staff in the first place.

Excuse #3: It’ll be a disincentive to hiring women (because they might actually use their entitlements)

Why this is a shit-house excuse:

Ok, so by this line of logic, employers shouldn’t be hiring women anyways, since they’ll have to potentially pay them maternity leave.

And by the way, what IS the incentive for hiring women anyway? Is it because it seems to be socially acceptable to pay them less?

What we’re really saying with this excuse is that having an obligation to provide staff (particularly women) with rights to safety and security, isn’t of interest to employers and we can’t be bothered to hold them accountable for it.

But the truth is, Australia’s already growing a track-record of employers who think otherwise and are providing their staff with domestic violence leave provisions.

In relation to those who would STILL stand behind this excuse, my response is that this is why we need to have domestic violence as a protected attribute in anti-discrimination law, so that there are protections from employers who choose to discriminate on such a basis.

In conclusion:

Having domestic violence leave available for staff normalises help-seeking behaviour of victims. It tells them that they are entitled to seek help and it normalises the social responsibility of employers and colleagues to respond to victims in a positive way when they choose to seek help.

Domestic violence leave and positive social responses from employers and colleagues can be the support system that a woman might need to leave an abuser.

It can make all the difference in someone’s life, it’s economical, it’s attractive to prospective employees, retentive of current employees and it’s the right thing to do.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments below! Does your workplace provide #dvleave?



  1. Mike Harrison says:

    My idea is that the Minister for Employment and Women is right. It’s not to say women shouldn’t go on fighting, and in no way condones domestic violence, but a recognition that making provisions sometimes creates more problems for the community and business than it solves.

    As a veteran HR Manager my role in being fair and equitable to all applicants is drowning in legislation and provisions that DO affect the decisions of employers. Like it or not, when hiring someone, the business considerations always come first. Those things that affect time and productivity are high on the list of considerations. To deny that employers don’t consider these things is to be unrealistic. It is the world we live in. The only reason for the existence of a business is to make a profit. If it does not, it ceases to exist. In this case, there are no jobs.

    There are many things that don’t make business sense when it comes to hiring. One of those is age discrimination. Despite all the legislation it goes on. And it is fuelled by companies trying to make a profit. Not much responsibility going on here trying to convince the public that if you are over the age of 50 you should be living in a retirement village and have a funeral plan. They are doing a great job. For example, it is not unusual in my work for people to warn me about their age before attending a job interview.

    Fair Work currently makes a provision for Personal Leave which covers the individual and their immediate family. I see no reason why domestic violence leave could not be recognised under Personal Leave. This would also provide some protection from embarrassment for the employee who has to apply for leave under the label of ‘Domestic Violence’.

    It’s disappointing that the government is not going to do an impact study before it introduces the legislation. Let me rephrase that. It is really stupid. It may affect hiring decisions. And the persons that will be most affected will be women.

    • Heidi says:

      Hey there, Mike! Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment I really appreciate it. There is evidence now that shows that more racial and gender diverse workplaces = higher sales + profits compared to competitors. So, while on a surface level it might seem cheaper to discriminate, the opposite is true.

      I completely agree with you about bias being a barrier (despite legislative protections). I also really get your point about stigma and including DV leave in personal leave. A lot of businesses considering providing DV leave explore the appeal of this concept in an effort to prevent stigma as well. One of the drawbacks of that approach is that it doesn’t lend to creating domestic violence policies that address safety concerns at work and appropriate responses to victims who disclose and need to ensure their workplace is safe. Not to mention ensuring training. (All of which are vital if you are going to bother to offer DV leave in the first place.)

      I totally hear you about the barriers/potential for discrimination. Interestingly, gender inequality is a key driver of domestic violence, so in promoting gender inequality by not providing DV leave (or providing it, but then not hiring women), we’re sustaining and cultivating an environment for DV to occur in the first place.

      I feel like newer businesses these days (although obviously not all and varying levels dependent on industry) are slowly becoming more socially conscious, which gives me hope. The Government has also recently introduced DV leave for public servants, which is a massive step and hopefully sets the bar, so let’s watch this space. Also agree about the impact sudy.

  2. Caden Dahl says:

    If it was my choice, I would for sure keep an employee rather than hire a new one. You are also right that everyone might need some support here and there when dealing with a problem like that. If anything, I would see someone that deals with those types of issues in a professional manner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.