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Negligible cost for violence leave: study

AAP logoAAP 21/12/2016 Jennifer Rajca

A provision for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave would not harm Australia's competitiveness, a think-tank says.

Research undertaken by the Australia Institute's Centre for Future Work suggests only about 1.5 per cent of women and 0.3 per cent of men are likely to use such leave in any given year if it was available.

And offering 10 days paid leave across all workers in Australia would cost between $85 million and $120 million a year for the whole economy.

That's less than one-fiftieth of one per cent of existing payroll costs in Australia and less than one per cent of the estimated economic costs from domestic violence, the institute argues in its report, released on Thursday.

"The cost of doing nothing is enormous, since domestic violence imposes an ongoing economic burden every day on all segments of society, including governments and employers," centre director Jim Stanford said.

"The extra payroll costs associated with extending this provision are so tiny they can hardly be measured."

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann was recently criticised for arguing such leave, which Labor and unions support, would damage Australia's international competitiveness.

The institute says that claim is not credible.

"The costs to employers associated with those payouts are likely to be largely or completely offset by benefits to employers associated with the provision of paid domestic violence leave," it says.

It includes reduced absenteeism and turnover, as well as improved productivity.

Labor welcomes the research off the back of what it describes as Senator Cormann's "callous" comment.

"Senator Cormann is obviously confused: it's domestic violence, not domestic violence leave, that costs our economy and harms our international competitiveness," workplace relations spokesman Brendan O'Connor and family violence spokeswoman Terri Butler said.

The Fair Work Commission is considering a proposal by the ACTU to extend the provision of up to 10 paid domestic violence leave days.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry believes such leave could impose an additional cost to employers of $2 billion annually and says bosses already overwhelmingly act with compassion towards staff experiencing such violence, including voluntarily granting time off work and access to additional leave.

The chamber's CEO James Pearson said not all businesses had the capacity to pay for a new category of leave.

"Employees experiencing domestic violence already have access to two weeks of personal leave and four weeks of annual leave," he told AAP.

"Advocates of domestic violence leave have argued that the social problem is widespread, and so it is inconsistent to suggest there will be minimal claims for the additional paid leave."

National domestic violence helpline: 1800 737 732 or 1800RESPECT. In an emergency call triple-zero.

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