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Rosie Batty backs ACTU campaign to bring in domestic violence leave -

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MARK COLVIN: The Australian of the Year Rosie Batty is today backing a campaign by the ACTU to make domestic violence leave available to all Australian workers.

Ms Batty says the process of leaving her violent husband, through court attendances and police interviews, was so time consuming, it was like having a second job.

She's arguing that extra leave will help make it safer and easier for fellow victims to leave their partners.

But business groups say there's already enough leave available to workers facing domestic violence.

From Canberra, Tom Iggulden reports.

TOM IGGULDEN: When Caroline's partner began abusing her at home, it soon impacted her at work as well.

CAROLINE: They were supportive in the beginning and for the very first bit said, you know "Take some time off, that's fine."

TOM IGGULDEN: But over a period of months, as her issues at home worsened...

CAROLINE: It was as bad as they could get. Threatened to kill me.

TOM IGGULDEN: ...the attitude of her workmates and superiors also changed.

CAROLINE: They did say at one stage, you know, obviously you're doing something wrong to cause this issue.

TOM IGGULDEN: Soon her requests for more time off were rejected.

CAROLINE: "You're always off, you're always late. What are you going to do about it?" And it came to the point where I can't do anything about it. I have to do this.

TOM IGGULDEN: Eight months into her ordeal, she quit the job she'd done for years, faced, she says, with an impossible choice between keeping her employer happy and dealing with the mountain of issues that confront domestic violence victims who choose to leave their partners.

We've changed Caroline's name to protect her identity.

CAROLINE: Ongoing lawyer's appointments. There was obviously a whole heap of doctor’s appointments.

Domestic violence counselling sessions, which I only ever got to do two - I had to cancel the rest because I just couldn't fit them in.

Numerous appointments with my bank and just also with school; trying to keep them updated, trying to sort out issues that were affecting my child.

TOM IGGULDEN: Behind on her mortgage, and struggling to even feed herself and her child, the loss of her job was financially catastrophic.

Australian of the Year Rosie Batty is sympathetic to stories like Caroline's. Her son Luke was killed by his father after a protracted campaign of domestic violence against Ms Batty that forced her to leave him.

ROSIE BATTY: The year before Luke died was my year from hell. I can't tell you how many days I spent in court. It was like a second job. It was hideous.

TOM IGGULDEN: She's supporting a union case to Fair Work Australia for every Australian worker to be guaranteed 10 days domestic violence leave if they need it.

ROSIE BATTY: What I believe that ultimately means is the difference between someone possibly losing her job and falling into poverty.

KATE CARNELL: An extra 10 days is a huge cost to business.

TOM IGGULDEN: That's Kate Carnell, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

She says businesses shouldn't be asked to solve a societal problem, and warns a well-meaning campaign to protect women may have unintended consequences.

KATE CARNELL: We don't want to do anything that impacts upon workplaces' interest in employing women, I suppose progressing women in their organisations.

TOM IGGULDEN: Around a million and a half employees have access to paid domestic violence leave already thanks to enterprise bargaining agreements with their employers.

They're mostly big employers like McDonalds, Kmart, Telstra and the National Australia Bank.

But domestic violence leave clauses are rare among the 2 million small Australian businesses like the one Caroline used to work for.

She says having more leave would have helped her through the difficult decision to leave her partner.

CAROLINE: I would have been able to sort out my stuff, knowing and taking that pressure off, know that I could take that time off, knowing my mortgage was going to get paid, I could afford to attend certain counselling sessions and I could afford to feed myself.

TOM IGGULDEN: But Kate Carnell says creating a special category of leave for people in specific circumstances would create a bad precedent.

And she says Caroline would have had access to enough leave to deal with her situation through current mandatory arrangements.

KATE CARNELL: She can take her sick leave, her personal leave, her recreation leave. Now if she'd used up all of that, it's hard to believe that an extra 10 days would have made her in a better position.

MARK COLVIN: Kate Carnell ending Tom Iggulden's report.