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Divorce and separationDomestic violence

Family violence leave introduced to workplaces

By August 13, 2018October 26th, 2021No Comments

Another welcome change in Australia’s efforts to tackle family violence, with the Fair Work Commission now having handed down a decision mandating five days of unpaid family violence leave annually for all employees needing time to deal with family violence issues at home.

People experiencing family violence can find it difficult to attempt to deal with the issues during their work hours. They may need to access police services, attend court hearings, and otherwise make arrangements in relation to safety for themselves or their family members, and this can conflict with work demands.

But now Australia’s industry and occupation awards have all been updated with a new clause specifically addressing family and domestic violence leave after the recent Fair Work Commission decision. All employees covered by an award with the new clause are now entitled to 5 days unpaid family and domestic violence leave. The new clause took effect on 1 August 2018.

In the new clause, family and domestic violence are defined as “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”.

To access the provision, evidence needs to be presented to satisfy a reasonable person that the leave is required in order to deal with family violence. Such evidence may include: a document issued by police, court or family violence support service or a statutory declaration. Employers must keep information confidential (save for instances where disclosure is demanded by law or is deemed needed to ensure the safety of the employee).

The leave is not cumulative, meaning you are entitled to the full five days from the first day you start work, and it is not pro-rated, so even part-time and casual employees can access the entitlement.

Exceptions to the new entitlement are enterprise awards and state reference public sector awards. But employees who are not covered by awards with the new clause can still negotiate leave and pay entitlements with their employer. In some cases paid leave, flexible work hours or counselling services form part of an employer’s own family violence leave strategy.

The introduction of family violence leave is welcome, although still subject to criticisms that victims would be better assisted by paid leave, such as was recently introduced in New Zealand, since taking unpaid leave could exacerbate the already-difficult financial circumstances that victims are often in. The ACTU had campaigned unsuccessfully for 10 days’ paid leave.

The issue of paid family violence leave will be raised again in 2021 when the awards are next reviewed by the Fair Work Commission.

You can read the decision here.

And you can find all details here.

You may also like to read our blog on myths about family violence and child custody.

If you need assistance with a family law matter or domestic violence matter, please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our other solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.

Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.

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