More than eight million Australians will be entitled to 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave by the end of the year after the Labor government promised new legislation.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke on Friday said making paid leave a universal right would be his first parliamentary act after Labor promised it during the election campaign.

Paid domestic violence leave was one of the recommendations from the Respect@Work 2020 report and Burke said implementing all 55 recommendations would be his priority.

“Any piece of legislation changes people’s lives. This legislation changes people’s safety immediately … as soon as I can get it through I intend to and so I’m hoping to get it drafted in time for the first couple of [parliamentary sitting] weeks,” he said.

This is a big move for women who are disproportionately affected by domestic violence.

Research shows leaving an abusive relationship can be costly. Victims can rack up thousands of dollars in lost wages, temporary accommodation, moving house (and other associated costs like breaking a lease), transport and healthcare or support.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions, which has fought for paid domestic violence leave for workers, estimated the cost to leave could be about $18,000.

Burke’s pledge came one month after the Fair Work Commission made an in-principle decision that workers covered by modern Awards should have access to 10 days paid domestic violence leave and granted the right to 2.7 million workers on certain industry awards.

ACTU said in a statement in May legislating paid domestic violence leave would be “just the beginning” on the way to gender equality.

“Addressing family and domestic violence is key for closing the gender pay gap as women who experience violence are more likely to fall behind in their career into low-paid and casual work, or out of the workforce entirely,” ACTU President Michele O’Neil said.

Fair Work also announced this week it would raise the minimum wage in Australia by 5.2 per cent to keep step with inflation. Small steps, but we love to see it.

Image: Getty Images / Jenny Evans