​Unions and bosses clash on domestic violence leave

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​Unions and bosses clash on domestic violence leave

Unions and employers remain at loggerheads on the issue of paid domestic violence leave, with the Australian Industry Group claiming a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach won’t work.

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Unions and employers remain at loggerheads on the issue of paid domestic violence leave, with the Australian Industry Group claiming a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach won’t work.

Ai Group has filed its submissions and evidence in opposition to the ACTU’s claims for all awards to be varied to give employees 10 days’ per year of paid domestic violence leave.  

The claims are being dealt with by a Fair Work Commission (FWC) full bench in the family and domestic violence leave case. 

'One-size-fits-all' approach not appropriate


Innes Willox, chief executive of the Australian Industry Group, said: “Employers have different capacities to provide support to employees experiencing domestic violence. The unions’ “one-size-fits-all” approach is not appropriate.”

He said there were many aspects of the unions’ claim that were not yet widely understood, including:
  • The only country that is known to have paid domestic violence leave at a national level is the Philippines, but the entitlement is not well-known in the country or well-enforced. In its submissions, the ACTU refers to a number of US States that have granted domestic violence leave, but these entitlements are unpaid and typically only apply to larger businesses.
  • Under the unions’ proposed clause: 
    • a full time employee would receive the 10-day entitlement on their first day of employment.
    • a part-time employee who works two days per week would receive 10 days of leave, which would be the equivalent of five weeks of leave for the employee.
    • a casual employee who works irregularly and infrequently for an employer would be entitled to 10 days of paid leave from the employer.
  • In their evidence, the unions have not established why they have chosen a 10-day entitlement for their claim.
  • Only a minority of enterprise agreements include domestic violence provisions. These agreements contain a wide variety of different arrangements, leave and non-leave. Most of those that contain leave entitlements contain less than 10 days of leave, with many providing unpaid leave entitlements, or access to existing personal/carer’s leave entitlements.
  • Under the Fair Work Act 2009, awards are intended to provide a safety net, with enterprise bargaining providing a mechanism to deal with entitlements above the safety net. Awards are only permitted to contain provisions which are “necessary” in order to meet the “modern awards objective” in section 134 of the Act. In two decisions in 2008 and 2009, a seven member full bench of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (now the FWC), rejected union claims for award provisions dealing with “Pressing Domestic Need Leave” on the basis that the provisions were not appropriate for awards intended to be a safety net.

ACTU reject comments


However, ACTU president Ged Kearney said many of AiG’s assertions were wrong.

She said many public and private sector employers had already chosen to support their employees by providing paid leave and other benefits for people experiencing domestic and family violence.

“The ACTU’s claim for 10 days' paid domestic and family violence leave in modern awards will complement these existing employer schemes,” she said.

“PWC, NAB, Telstra and other employers provide generous and wide-ranging support for employees experiencing domestic and family violence that goes well beyond the minimum entitlements sought by the ACTU, including additional discretionary paid leave, training for staff and a cash advance. All available evidence shows that the provision of 10 days' paid leave for award-dependent employees leads to positive outcomes for employers and employees.”

Kearney said while many employees were now covered by enterprise agreements containing family and domestic violence leave, bargaining outcomes had not been consistent.

"This is exactly why the ACTU is seeking a variation to all modern awards, to ensure clarity and consistency for all.”

“Domestic and family violence leave should be accessible by casual as well as ongoing employees. We
should not discriminate against people who are already in less secure work.”

Kearney said The Australian Law Reform Commission, the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Victorian Government all support the consideration of appropriate variations to modern awards to better to support victims of family and domestic violence leave.”
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