VICTIMS of domestic violence will be able to take an extra 20 days a year of paid leave under an Australia-first deal struck between a Victorian regional council and a union.

The deal between Torquay-based Surf Coast Shire and the Australian Services Union has been hailed as possibly the world's most progressive workplace agreement on family violence.

Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse project officer Ludo McFerran said the deal was the first time a workplace agreement in Australia had included 20 days of paid leave for family violence.


It was based on a proposal by the Clearinghouse, a research and advocacy group on domestic violence.

''From what I can find it's world's best practice,'' she said. ''It's a really brilliant development.''

ASU assistant state secretary Lisa Darmanin said the union, representing more than 20,000 Victorians, would seek to include the family violence clause in all negotiations with employers.

She said the Surf Coast agreement, which covers about 260 council staff, would help victims of family violence hold down a job.

The in-principle agreement allows for up to 20 days a year of the leave and requires the employer to not breach the privacy of victims. It covers physical, sexual, emotional, financial, verbal or emotional abuse by a family member.

A 2004 Access Economics report put the annual cost of domestic violence in Australia at $8 billion, with women overwhelmingly the victims.

Victorian crime statistics show in the year 2009-10 there were 35,720 cases of police submitting a family incident report after a callout.

Ms Darmanin said family violence could disrupt women's lives. Some of her union's members had lost their jobs.

Victims had to find safety for themselves and their children while dealing with often complex legal, accommodation and financial problems, she said.

Surf Coast Shire chief executive Mark Davies said the council embraced the issue when it was put forward by the union.

He said the council wanted to be an ''employer of choice'' and to support its employees.

To access the leave, a worker may require proof of violence from the police, a court, a doctor or nurse, lawyer or family violence support service worker. All information must be kept confidential and no adverse action can be taken against an employee whose work suffers because of family violence.

Ms Darmanin said the change had two aims: to keep victims in work and reduce the stigma surrounding violence.

The University of New South Wales and a union have recently negotiated a clause on domestic violence, but that only allows them access to other types of paid leave, without creating an entitlement of 20 days.

Ms McFerran said the Surf Coast agreement would set a ''very high standard'' for Australia. She hoped it would flow through to other women-dominated industries, such as nursing or teaching.

She said overseas research had found up to 10 per cent of the workforce, male and female, suffered family abuse. It could follow victims to work through emails, phone calls or visits.