Four years ago, Centacare introduced 10 days paid domestic and family violence leave in the belief no one should have to choose between their job or their safety.

From today, employees across Australia can access the same entitlement, as new laws come into effect to empower at-risk workers’ decision-making and help-seeking capabilities.

The legislation aims to give full-time, part-time and casual employees the time and space to escape unsafe relationships, without risking their financial security.

Centacare Director Leanne Haddad welcomed the change, saying it will allow employees nationwide to “hold onto their jobs’’ while creating “space and time’’ for them to make informed decisions, navigate the criminal justice system and access specialist support services.

‘’In recent years, Centacare has supported a number of people through this process, not only with paid leave but with flexible workplace arrangements,’’ Leanne said.

‘’I’ve seen how the 10 days can be quite lifechanging for individuals in the workplace.’’

Previously, under Fair Work legislation, employees were entitled to a minimum five days unpaid leave.

Centacare went a step further in mid-2019 and introduced the additional 10-day paid leave to assist workers to access vital resources, support and safety planning.

Leanne said while the workplace is the “safest place for many’’, people in violent relationships are often reluctant to disclose they are experiencing violence to an employer, due to fear and shame.

‘’People may not want to tell their workplace about what they are going through, so they will come to work at the expense of safety in their home or for their families,’’ she said.

‘’An understanding workplace is a key enabler for victims to leave violent relationships because it can empower them to seek support.’’

Under the new leave entitlements, employees can take paid leave to: make arrangements for their safety or the safety of a close relation; attend court hearings; access police services; and attend counselling and other appointments such as legal or medical consultations.

Leanne encouraged at-risk workers to reach out to their employer for support.

‘’Find a trusted person within your workplace, whether that’s through HR or your Employee Assistance Programs, because it’s really important that your workplace understands you and supports you through this process,’’ she said.

Centacare Catholic Family Services is the biggest regional provider of specialist domestic violence and homelessness support in South Australia.

Southern Country Domestic Violence Service Regional Manager Susie Smith said paid leave can prevent victims and survivors from falling into poverty and unemployment.

 ‘’Financial difficulties are often the main issues that keeps women in unsafe relationships,’’ Susie said.

‘’Domestic and family violence leave supports her to get the professional support she needs to leave that relationship safely.

‘’The 10-day leave also supports a broader understanding of the issues people face when they experience gender-based abuse.’’

groundbreaking report released by Anne Summers last year sets out the financial challenges women encounter when leaving abusive relationships which leaves them with an impossible choice between violence and poverty.