Domestic Violence Leave from 1 August 2018
Whilst we are known as the lucky country, it is frightening to read the statistics on family domestic violence in Australia. It is an issue that cuts across ages, socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds but predominantly impacts on women and children, with one in six affected. The Fair Work Commission has recently accepted the overwhelming evidence that this is not only a catastrophic social issue but a workplace one too.
From 1 August 2018, all modern awards will have a model clause for Family and Domestic Violence Leave.
What is Family and Domestic Violence? Family and domestic violence means violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by a family member of an employee that seeks to coerce or control the employee and that causes them harm or to be fearful. What is in the Model Clause? The key elements of the clause are:
the entitlement is five (5) days leave per year
the leave will be unpaid
it will apply to all employees including casuals
leave will be available, in full, at the beginning of each 12-month period; it will not accrue progressively
it will not accumulate year from year
leave will be available, in full, to part-time and casual employees i.e. it will not be offered on a pro-rata basis.
There are evidence requirements if the employer makes a request, that would satisfy the reasonable person that the leave has been taken for the purposes contemplated by the provisions. There are also obligations for the employer to ensure that any information provided by the employee of their circumstances is kept confidential as far as it is reasonably practical to do so. For employers covered by existing enterprise agreements that do not contain domestic violence leave provisions, there is no obligation to comply with the award model clause though increasingly we are seeing employers introduce similar clauses in policies or recently negotiated enterprise agreements. Whilst the unpaid leave component of the model term has been said to not go far enough for victims who more often than not suffer from financial hardship as well as emotional and physical, this is a positive move forward to encourage affected employees to feel comfortable disclosing their experience of violence and seeking support from their workplace. Our domestic violence record is a stain on Australia’s cultural fabric. Any initiative to help employees find their voice again and encourage employers to support and take a stand for those who can’t, can only be commended.