Most employees can now take up to five days unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence, with new provisions taking effect from the first full pay cycle after August 1.
The entitlement is available to national system employees covered by modern awards. Part-time and casual workers also have access to the full entitlement.
However, some agreement covered, award free and state system employees do not currently have access to the entitlement.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released in February, one in six women and one in 16 men have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15.
However, employees may be reluctant to raise the issue with their employers due to concerns about retaining their job.
The leave can be taken for activities including (this list is not exhaustive):
- Relocating from a violent partner
- Attendance at Court cases
- Obtaining a restraining order
- Making arrangements such as child care.
CCI Employee Relations Advice Centre Manager Kendall Scott says employers should consider introducing a domestic violence leave policy and providing support to leadership and management teams on their respective obligations when it comes to implementation and management of the entitlement.
“A good starting point for businesses is introducing a domestic violence leave policy so that staff are made aware of the entitlement and how they go about accessing the leave,” she says.
“If they are going to access it, this ultimately means their employer will become aware of what they are going through.
“Previously, employees only had the option of taking other forms of leave such as annual or personal leave, for example, and didn’t necessarily have to disclose their situation. The fact that those other forms of leave are still available to employees as an alternative, could form part of the conversation piece.”
“The entitlement is very new and as a result there is still very much a stigma attached to taking leave for this purposes that will take time to address. Having a clear and well communicated policy promoting the leave as something that is available and will be supported by the organisation will be really important in addressing these views.”
Scott says while employees can take other types of leave where they are experiencing family and domestic violence and wish to keep the matter private, this may not be practical.
“There may be long timeframes associated with accessing annual leave for example, whereas family and domestic violence leave can be accessed quickly. Employees also need to wait for paid leave to accrue whereas the entitlement to family and domestic violence leave is available up-front.”
CCI’s Employment Forms Guide will be updated in the coming fortnight to include a new Family and Domestic Violence Leave policy.
If an employee is impacted by family and domestic violence, employers should also consider their occupational health and safety obligations. This might include:
- Providing security to and from their car at the start and end of the working day
- Providing training and set protocols for frontline staff to deal with a perpetrator should they attempt to access work premises
- Consider whether phone calls need to be screened
- Offering access to an EAP, etc.
For phone advice on how to deal with domestic and family violence matters in the workplace contact CCI’s Employee Relations Advice Centre. Read more about CCI membership here.