Family and domestic violence is a well-recognised problem in Australia, with a reported 1 in 6 women, aged 15 or above, and 1 in 16 men, having experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner (according to the report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare: Family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia, 2018).
It is clear that the effects of such violence extend beyond physical injuries and do not end if or when the violence does. Those experiencing family and domestic violence often require time to deal with mental health issues, housing arrangements, caring for children involved, including ensuring children are removed to a safe environment, as well as to access legal and financial services.
With this in mind, amendments have now come into force extending the entitlement to family and domestic violence leave to all Fair Work system employees.
Earlier this year, changes were made to industry and occupation modern awards entitling employees covered by the relevant awards to five (5) days unpaid leave in order to address family and domestic violence issues. However, millions of Fair Work system employees did not have this entitlement.
From 11 December 2018, the entitlement has been extended to all employees covered by the national Fair Work system, and is to be included in the National Employment Standards (NES), which provide minimum standards of employment.
This inclusion will provide support and assistance to those affected by domestic and family violence, and should encourage employers to work with their employees to minimise disruption to their employment.
If an employee’s family member is threatening, violent or abusive, in a manner that seeks to coerce or control the employee, or causes them harm or fear, the employee may take unpaid leave if they need to deal with the impact of the behaviour and it is impractical to do so outside of ordinary work hours.
The full leave entitlement (of 5 days) is automatically available at the beginning of each 12-month period of employment, but does not roll over into the next year.
If you are an employer within the Fair Work system, we recommend that you:
By Kim Jones (Solicitor)
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The above information is a summary and overview of the matters discussed. This publication does not constitute legal advice and you should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the content.