Domestic and family violence is often considered as being exclusively limited to the home environment. However, the impacts of domestic and family violence are wide-ranging and frequently interfere with an individual’s work life which can cause issues in the workplace. This situation disproportionately affects women. It is important for both employers and employees to be aware of the legal entitlements to family and domestic violence leave.
Since December 12th, 2018, when the Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Act 2018 came into effect, the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (“FWA”) provides that an employee is entitled to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave in a 12 month period. The provision provides that casual, part-time, and full time employees are eligible.
Under the FWA, unpaid domestic and family violence became a part of the National Employment Standards (NES), thus requiring all industry and occupation awards to include the entitlement.
Certain businesses may provide other paid or unpaid domestic and family violence leave entitlements to employees through agreements, employment contracts or workplace policies. Domestic and family violence often leads to significant loss of income and productivity (predominantly affecting women) and may cause victims to take days off and makes it difficult for victims to concentrate in the workplace.
According to a recent report released by the Champions of Change Coalition, absenteeism and lost productivity are costing Australian employers $2 billion annually.
At present only two countries have legislation that requires businesses to offer paid domestic and family violence. New Zealand, through the Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Act 2018 require employers to offer 10 days paid leave, while the Philippines likewise offers 10 paid days off through the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004.
There is evidence that domestic and family violence cases have dramatically increased, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has also blurred the divisions between home and work life.
Employers should update any current workplace policies or develop and implement a policy to ensure employees understand their rights and responsibilities in relation to family and domestic violence leave.
If this article has raised any concerns for you or your organisation please do not hesitate to contact WGC Lawyers’ Employment Lawyer, John Hayward, on (07) 4046 1111, for advice specific to your circumstances.
This article was prepared with the assistance of Rhys Mapstone, law student.