On the 6th of July the Fair Work Commission announced that most employees can now take up to 5 days of unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence, following a Fair Work Commission decision
Based on this the Fair Work Commission have updated all industry and occupation awards to include a new clause about family and domestic violence. This new clause applies from the first full pay period on or after 1 August 2018.
So there you go, officially we can add another leave type to the multitude of leave entitlements in Australian Workplaces. I am also pre-empting a collective sigh of frustration from the small business community, as I know what most of you are thinking. Do we really need another type of leave for employees to have entitlement to, if not abuse? And why should Australian employers have to grant such leave when we have one of the most generous leave systems in the world? Don’t we have enough options for leave? Well if you look at the cold hard facts the majority of crimes committed in Australia are crimes of domestic violence. So this is a big problem. In Victoria alone there is on average a reported 75,000 domestic violence crimes committed annually, 13 of these crimes are deaths/murders. So yes, we have a new leave type but I think we can all can agree that this is something that could surely assist with prevention, as most victims don’t want to speak up or take time off as there is a stigma associated with these crimes. There is the shame, the fear of losing your job or being judged for being a domestic violence victim.
And we are not alone, this news comes just after New Zealand became the second country in the world to approve paid Domestic and Family Violence leave. This was announced only yesterday, and would be a disappointing blow for unions in Australia who were lobbying the FWC for 10 days paid leave here also, but their submission was rejected and 5 days unpaid leave was approved instead.
So, who is now covered by this new clause and is my organisation or industry impacted?
The new entitlement only applies to all employees covered by an industry or occupation award.
It doesn’t apply to employees who are:
- covered by Enterprise awards
- covered by State reference public sector awards
- covered by enterprise and other registered agreements
- award and agreement free.
So, what’s the new entitlement?
Employees covered by an award with the new clause are entitled to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year. Family and domestic violence means violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s family member that:
- seeks to coerce or control the employee
- causes them harm or fear.
Employees can take the leave if they need to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence and it’s impractical to do so outside their ordinary hours of work.
So, what do I need to do? We highly recommend updating your Leave Policy to cover and cater for such instances of leave within your business. If these changes affect your organisation HR Gurus can assist to create and implement a robust policy to add to your existing suite of policies to ensure you are not only ahead of the game, but are also managing any risks or implications resulting from implementing this leave.
Please note that existing clients will be contacted with a suggested edit to insert into their Employee Handbooks.
The real question is, will victims of domestic violence even have the courage to access such leave? I guess only time will tell. I would be recommending that employers and business owners create a safe environment where employees feel comfortable in sharing such issues with you up-front. Good policy and education are keys to the success of such reforms.
Written by resident – Head Guru Emily Jaksch