The Fair Work Commission has recently issued a provisional statement to consider including 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave for full-time and part-time employees who are covered by an award. This change would affect approximately 2.3 million employees. The Commission stated that “…such leave helps individuals to maintain their economic security; to access relevant services, and to safely exit to a life free from violence."
What are the current entitlements?
Employees are currently entitled to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave per year. This is provided under the National Employment Standards (‘NES’), which means that it extends to all employees, regardless of whether they are employed on a full-time, part-time or casual basis.
Family and domestic violence is defined by the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) as “violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s close relative that seeks to coerce or control the employee and causes them harm or to be fearful.” A close relative is a spouse/ de facto partner or former spouse/ de facto partner, other family member (such as a child, parent or sibling) or a person related to an employee according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules.
Family and domestic violence leave does not need to be accrued, it is available immediately upon commencing employment. This category of leave cannot be carried over to the next year/s.
Employees must give notice of their intention to take family and domestic violence leave as soon as possible. Depending on the circumstances, this can be given after the leave commenced. Employers can ask for evidence of the family and domestic violence and must ensure that all reasonably practical steps are taken to keep any information given confidential. Evidence can include documents issued by police or by a court, family violence support service documents or a statutory declaration.
The effects on family and domestic violence on Australia’s workforce
A recent report by The Champions of Change Coalition found that domestic violence leads to higher rates of staff absenteeism and lower productivity. It estimated that this cost businesses approximately $2 billion each year. The report also found that 62% of women who have, or who are currently experiencing family and domestic violence, are in the paid workforce.
These statistics have led to The Australian Council of Trade Unions (‘ACTU’) to call for the Commission’s decision to extend to employees covered by the NES. This means that a further 8.4 million workers would have access to paid family and domestic violence leave. The Commission outlined in its decision that women who have experienced family and domestic violence are more likely to be employed on a casual basis than women who have not. The ACTU argues that extending paid family and domestic violence leave to all employees, including casuals, is a necessary step in assisting women to escape violent relationships.
Federal parliament will need to pass legislation to bring the Commission’s decision into effect. The Labor party has expressed their support of the Commission’s decision and that they intend to pass legislation which would incorporate paid family and domestic violence leave into workplace awards.
If you would like to find out more about your obligations as an employer, please reach out to us for an obligation free discussion with one of our experienced commercial solicitors.
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice beforetaking any course of action.
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