Discrimination: Women being forced out of jobs, missing promotions for being in an abusive relationship
WOMEN are being forced out of jobs and are missing out on promotions because they face discrimination for being in an abusive relationship.
In one case, a woman who revealed she was raped by an abusive ex-partner was soon after asked by her employer to “move on” from the workplace.
It has prompted a pledge from Labor MP Katrine Hildyard to update the Equal Opportunity Act to better protect victims of domestic violence.
The party will also push for changes to provide 10 days’ extra leave a year for victims, so they can attend medical appointments or police interviews, move house or recover from an attack.
A report released this month by KPMG shows 800,000 working women are living in, or have been in, an abusive relationship.
The effects are forecast to cost Australian businesses almost $610 million a year by 2021.
Discrimination against victims of abusive relationships most often occurs when an employer or landlord terminates a worker’s contract or ends a tenancy because of problems stemming from the abuse.
This can include extended absences because of injury, abusive partners appearing at workplaces, damage to rental properties or failure to pay rent because of financial abuse.
In a case raised by the Working Women’s Centre, a woman was raped by her ex-partner after he broke into her home.
Her work manager accompanied her to a police interview for support and was shocked by what the woman revealed about the abusive relationship.
On returning to work, the woman was called to a meeting with human resources staff and told she should move on from the workplace to seek a “fresh start”.
The woman emphasised that she needed stability and the ongoing support of workmates, but others began to treat her differently and withheld training opportunities because it was believed she would be leaving the workplace.
She was eventually sacked for making a small mistake. Under current law, women in such situations cannot make a legal complaint of discrimination against their employer.
Ms Hildyard wants to change the Equal Opportunity Act to make it illegal to discriminate against a person for being a victim of domestic violence.
“It’s not their fault — this is something that has happened to them,” Ms Hildyard said.
“It’s clear from the case studies that this problem exists.
“It’s important that we give women every avenue for safety.”
SA Equal Opportunity Commissioner Anne Gale said her office fielded a “handful” of cases a year involving discrimination against family violence victims but “because it’s not a ground for discrimination people don’t come to us a lot at the moment”.
“Putting it in legislation gives people an avenue to complain about it formally,” she said.