Are you aware of your new employment obligations?
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.1 In addition, the Australian Council of Trade Unions has been campaigning for many years for paid domestic violence leave in all awards.2
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.3
Perhaps this change stands in the shadow of New Zealand’s new legislation passed last week, promising 10 days of paid leave for domestic violence survivors.4 Nevertheless, Australia’s new leave entitlements are certainly a significant win for all employees, and a positive step in the right direction.
Employers and managers now need to review and update their leave policies and related documentation to reflect these changes. 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 this new employment legislation around domestic and family violence. Make sure all of your employees know about the new entitlement and how to access it.
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).
2. https://www.amwu.org.au/family_violence_leave and https://www.actu.org.au/our-work/policy-issues/domestic-violence
4. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jul/26/new-zealand-paid-domestic-violence-leave-jan-logie and https://www.sbs.com.au/news/new-zealand-brings-in-paid-domestic-violence-leave