Family and domestic violence (FDV) is a workplace issue. It may be affecting some of your employees.
In the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDV statistics in Australia were chilling. One in four Australian women had experienced physical, sexual or emotional abuse by a current or former partner.[1&2] More than half of those women had children in their care. FDV against women was the single largest driver of homelessness for women and contributed to more death, disability and illness in women aged 15 to 44 than any other preventable risk factor.
Alarmingly, the lockdown and isolation conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic have created an escalation in FDV, with reports that FDV support service providers are struggling to meet the surge in requests for assistance. One of Australia's leading support groups said that two thirds of victims of violence or abuse from domestic partners reported an escalation of attacks, or were victimised for the first time, during COVID-19 lockdowns.
If you require prompt confidential support for domestic violence or sexual assault, the national 24 hour hotline is 1800-RESPECT.
It’s important for the workplace to be a safe space for staff who are victims of family violence to disclose and receive appropriate support.
Are you aware of your employer obligations?
There is legislation which requires employers to create a safe workplace environment that is free from violence, discrimination and harassment.
Under Work, Health & Safety (WHS) laws, employers have a duty to eliminate risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable. This means proactively managing the risk of FDV in the workplace, including ensuring staff are protected from harm when they are working from home or remotely from another location.
FDV can affect an employee's work performance and attendance. Employers need to be aware of the potential discrimination risks, including transferring, demoting or terminating employment of a victim of domestic violence due to a drop in performance or attendance.
Paid Family & Domestic Violence Leave
The Fair Work Act provides minimum entitlements for employees, including minimum legal entitlements of employees experiencing FDV.
Under national workplace laws, workers dealing with family and domestic violence can:
take paid family and domestic violence leave
request flexible working arrangements, and
take paid or unpaid sick or carer’s leave, in certain circumstances.
On 27 October 2022, The Fair Work Amendment (Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2022 passed both houses in parliament. This updates the National Employment Standards (NES). Effective 1 February 2023, employees affected by family and domestic violence are entitled to 10 days of paid Family & Domestic Violence (FDV) Leave per year. Small businesses will have until 1 August 2023 for the changes to take effect. FDV Leave is available to employees who have experienced violent, threatening, controlling, or abusive behaviour by a close relative, a member of an employee’s household, or a current or former intimate partner of an employee. The entitlement allows the affected employee to take time off from work to do things necessary to alleviate their situation, such as seeking support, finding safe accommodation, or attending court hearings, without putting their employment at risk. This entitlement applies to all employees, including casual employees and employees under enterprise agreements which already have paid FDV Leave entitlements. Employees have access to paid FDV Leave from the day they commence employment, and the entitlement will refresh every year.
Employers should ensure their leave policies and monitoring systems are up to date and reflect the new paid FDV leave entitlements.
It is also important for employers to understand their role in supporting employees experiencing FDV, including practical workplace supports and safety plans.
To maintain a safe and supportive workplace, employers should consider the following actions:
Monitoring and managing the workplace culture
Acknowledging FDV as a workplace issue and educating your staff
Establishing clear FDV policies and processes
Regularly reviewing your WHS and anti-discrimination processes
Implementing practical control measures for worker safety
Ensuring staff understand their options regarding leave and flexible work arrangements
Providing external resources and referrals for additional specialised support
WorkPlacePLUS provides services to assist employers in addressing FDV in the workplace.
For more information, please contact us today.
1. Cox, P. (2015) Violence against women: Additional analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey 2012, Horizons Research Report, Issue 1, Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), Sydney; and Woodlock, D., Healey, L., Howe, K., McGuire, M., Geddes, V. and Granek, S. (2014) Voices against violence paper one: Summary report and recommendations, Women with Disabilities Victoria, Office of the Public Advocate and Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria. 2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2012.
3. National Crime Prevention (2001) Young people and domestic violence: National research on young people’s attitudes and experiences of domestic violence, Crime Prevention Branch, Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, Canberra; and Cox (2015)
4. 55% of women with children presenting to specialist homelessness services nominated escaping violence as their main reason for seeking help. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Specialist homeless services data collection 2011-12, Cat. No. HOU 267, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Canberra.
5. Based on Victorian figures from VicHealth (2004) The health costs of violence: Measuring the burden of disease caused by intimate partner violence, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne.
6. 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).