The Fair Work Act 2009 requires employers to create a safe workplace environment that is free from violence, discrimination and harassment. Yet survivors of domestic and family violence can face workplace discrimination as a result of taking time off work or temporarily having lower levels of productivity due to their experience of violence at home.
Since 2012, the Australian Human Rights Commission has campaigned for employment legislation to specifically address this issue. In addition, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has been campaigning for many years for paid domestic violence leave in all awards.
In March 2018, the Fair Work Commission voted to allow five days of unpaid leave for domestic violence survivors but turned down the union proposal to introduce 10 paid days.
Fair Work has now officially announced details of Australia’s new family and domestic violence leave entitlements:
From 1 August 2018, modern awards will be varied to give employees access to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year.
The leave can be taken by employees to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence. This includes (but isn’t limited to) taking time to:
- make arrangements for their safety, or the safety of a family member
- attend court hearings
- access police services
This entitlement applies to all employees (including casuals) who are covered by an industry or occupation based award.
Under national workplace laws, workers dealing with family and domestic violence can:
take unpaid family and domestic violence leave
request flexible working arrangements, and
take paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave, in certain circumstances
It is important to note that some workplaces may also offer paid leave for workers experiencing family and domestic violence. Employers can provide more than the minimum entitlements under workplace policies, enterprise agreements and informally.
Employers and managers should review and update their leave policies and related documentation on a routine basis and whenever legislative changes are announced. However, updating your leave policy should be just the first step in an important process of re-educating your staff.
I strongly encourage organisations to take a holistic approach to implementing employment legislation around domestic and family violence. Make sure all of your employees know about the entitlements and how to access them.
This is an opportunity for managers and team leaders to develop skills around safety, communication and confidentiality, how to discuss the issue of family violence, and where to refer a staff member for support and resources.
For more information and assistance, please contact us today.
Confidential information, counselling and support for people impacted by domestic and family violence is available at www.1800respect.org.au
1. The Australian Human Rights Commission recommended that federal anti-discrimination legislation and the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) prohibit discrimination on the ground of domestic and family violence: Consolidation of Commonwealth Discrimination Law – domestic and family violence, (2012); Post Implementation Review of the Fair Work Act 2009 (2012); Australian Law Reform Commission: Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws: Employment and Superannuation (2011).