Employers are uncertain about the impact of new entitlements that will allow five days of unpaid leave for workers affected by domestic or family violence.
The Fair Work Commission confirmed it considers family and domestic violence as “a community issue and requires a community response”, and will change all 122 modern awards in the country to include the new leave entitlement.
George Calderon, workplace lawyer and seconded consultant from Employer Advisors, said while he sympathises with victims of family violence, he questioned how the policy would be practically implemented in workplaces.
“What is the definition of domestic violence, and how is that going to be negotiated with the boss?” he asked.
“In many cases, victims do not want to come forward, or announce to the world that they are suffering this way, so how will they be able to sit down with their employer and discuss what they are going through, and how will their employer know that they are telling the truth?”
While the Australian Council of Trade Unions pushed for 10 days of paid leave for domestic violence victims, the fair work umpire eventually agreed to five days of unpaid leave, to give people time outside work hours to organise meetings with police or lawyers, and to attend court hearings, and make arrangements for safe and alternate accommodation, not to mention managing any children caught up in the situation.
The leave will be available to full time employees and casual employees and will not accumulate, meaning that at the start of each 12 month period, the leave would revert back to five days.
Read more about the ACTU’s response at our Industrial Relations Claims website here.
Mr Calderon said the impact the new leave will have on business is not yet known.
“We simply don’t know how many people will need to use this form of leave, how they will go about applying for it, and how much it will cost employers in the long run,” he said.
“Because the definitions are so vague, and the issues so sensitive, it really is impossible to know how it will work, or if it will work at all.”
The Fair Work Commission has announced it will review the new domestic and family violence leave in three years time, to consider whether any adjustments are necessary, including whether to change it from unpaid to paid.
“While this is a serious community issue, some employers are asking why they should be left to ultimately foot the bill,” Mr Calderon said.
Employer Advisors said there are still some very important questions the Fair Work Commission needs to answer to give employers certainty, for instance:
- What is the technical definition of domestic violence?
- What evidence will employees need to produce to be entitled to take such leave?
- And why can’t an employee use their own existing personal or carer’s leave to deal with domestic violence matters?
The Fair Work Commission has indicated it will be some weeks before it releases the final details outlining the specific changes to the modern awards.
Read more here at our Industrial Relations Claims website.
If you are suffering domestic violence, there is help available:
If you are in immediate danger – call the police on 000.
For support, you can call – Lifeline on 13 11 44 or RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
If you are concerned about how the new leave entitlements might affect your business, please call our friendly staff at Employer Advisors on 1300 853 837 for expert and confidential advice.
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