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Violence against women: Domestic and family violence - a workplace issue, a discrimination issue

Discrimination Sex Discrimination
Thursday 22 January, 2015

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Domestic and family violence have a real and costly impact on the Australian economy and Australian business. Almost two-thirds of women affected by domestic and family violence in Australia are in some form of paid employment.[4] It is estimated that violence against women and children will cost the Australian economy $15.6 billion by 2021-2022, unless effective action is taken to prevent this violence.[5] 

In 2013, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) was amended to expand the right to request to include those experiencing or supporting an immediate family/household member who is experiencing violence in the family or household.

One repercussion of domestic and family violence in Australia is discrimination. Victims and survivors may be discriminated against because they either have been, or are currently, in a violent domestic or family situation. Discrimination against victims and survivors occurs in all areas of public life. The majority of research undertaken concerns the workplace, but there is also evidence women who are victims or survivors of domestic or family violence experience discrimination in seeking housing.[6]

Workplace discrimination as a consequence of domestic and family violence takes many forms. Research suggests that it is common for victims and survivors to be denied leave or flexible work arrangements to attend to violence-related matters; have their employment terminated for violence-related reasons; and be transferred or demoted for reasons related to violence[7].

The Commission has called for the introduction of a new ground of discrimination concerning domestic and family violence.[8] The introduction of a legal prohibition would help to counter the individual and systemic implications of discrimination in education, housing, employment and other areas. Having domestic/family violence as a new protected attribute in anti-discrimination legislation can provide another avenue of protection for victims and survivors who experience discrimination, as well as lead to improved measures for addressing domestic/family violence.

For more information see the fact sheet: Domestic and family violence - a workplace issue, a discrimination issue


[4] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Personal Safety, Australia, 2005 (Reissue), Cat. No. 4906.0, 35. At: (viewed 12 October 2011).
[5] The National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, The Cost of Violence Against Women and Their Children (March 2009), p4. At: (viewed 29 March 2012).
[6] Donna Chung et al, Home Safe Home: the Link Between Domestic and Family Violence and Women’s Homelessness (2000). At: (viewed 7 October 2014).
[7] See Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry into Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws: Employment and Superannuation (2011), para 47. At: (viewed 7 October 2014).
[8] See Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission to the Attorney-General’s Department on Consolidation of Commonwealth Discrimination Law - domestic and family violence (2012). At: (7 October 2014).