Family and domestic violence impacts many Australians at home and in the workplace. This article discusses the recent changes to the National Employment Standards, that will assist employees recovering from family and domestic violence.
What is it?
In December 2018 the Federal Government made amendments to the Fair Work Act (FWA) to include an entitlement to unpaid family and domestic violence leave as part of the National Employment Standards (NES).
As a result of this change, all employees, are entitled to 5 days days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year. This includes part-time and casual employees, and employees covered by industry and occupation awards. Employees are entitled to this from the day they start work; it does not accrue over time.
Some businesses may provide additional paid or unpaid family and domestic leave entitlements on top of this entitlement. The entitlement will depend on the employee’s contract or policy. You can always enquire with your employer about any workplace policy or procedure they have concerning family and domestic violence.
The FWA defines family and domestic violence as violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s close relative that:
- Seeks to coerce or control the employee; and/or
- Causes them harm or fear.
When can you use it?
An employee is allowed to take the leave if they need to do something to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence, and it is impractical to do so outside their ordinary hours of work. This may include taking time to make arrangement for their safety, or the safety of a close relative, attending court hearings, or accessing police services.
An employee may also use other types of leave including annual leave. Depending on the circumstances, they may also be entitled to paid sick leave.
As a long term arrangement, employees may want to consider accessing a flexible working arrangement. For more information on flexibility, please see: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/flexibility-in-the-workplace
What notice and evidence do you need to give?
If you need to take family and domestic violence leave, you should let your employer know as soon as possible.
An employer may ask you for evidence that shows you took the leave to deal with family and domestic violence. If you do not provide it, you may not be able to access the leave. Types of evidence may include documents issued by the police or a court, family violence support service documents or a statutory declaration.
Employer must keep this information confidential. They have a duty to take reasonably practicable steps to do so. Employers should be aware that information of this nature is sensitive. You should work with your employer to discuss and agree on how the information will be handled.
However, an employer is not prevented from disclosing information if:
- If it is required by law; or
- It is necessary to protect the life, health or safety of the employee or another person.
The inclusion of family and domestic violence leave in the NES is a great initiative of the Federal Government to better meet the needs of victims and their families. It will hopefully provide many people with the opportunity to get their lives back on track after family and domestic leave, while maintaining their employment.
Unfortunately there are many other employment issues that may arise from family and domestic violence. Resolution123 has previously assisted clients with a range of employment law matters in this area, and has experience dealing with them respectfully and confidentially. Please contact us if you would like assistance of advice from an employment lawyer.
If you need other non-legal support services, including confidential information, counselling and support please visit: https://www.1800respect.org.au/.