Domestic violence leave inches closer


Domestic violence leave inches closer

Jobs Minister Kelly O’Dwyer today introduced proposed new laws to parliament that would entitle employees to five days unpaid family and domestic violence leave.


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Jobs Minister Kelly O’Dwyer today introduced proposed new laws to parliament that would entitle employees to five days' unpaid family and domestic violence leave.

The Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill would amend the current Fair Work Act by inserting an entitlement to domestic violence leave in the National Employment Standards.

Support for employees

According to the Bill’s Explanatory Memorandum, the legislation aims to support employees who need time off work to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence and ensure resignation is not their only option. The goal is to secure nationwide consistency in the entitlement.

If passed, employees will be able to access domestic violence specific leave if they are experiencing family domestic violence or need to do something to deal with the impact of that violence which is impractical to do outside their working hours. This may include accessing police services, attending urgent court hearings or making arrangement to secure their safety or that of a family member.

The proposed laws are modelled on the domestic violence leave clause recently introduced by the Fair Work Commission as part of the 4 Yearly Review of Modern Awards. From August this year a new clause providing five days' unpaid domestic violence leave has taken effect in 123 modern industry and occupation awards. However, the new clause only applies to companies and employees whose terms are set by those awards and there are still millions of Australian employees who do not have access to domestic violence leave. The Bill would extend that same entitlement to all employees across Australia.

The legislation

If the Bill passes into law, failure to grant domestic violence leave may give rise to a civil penalty. The Bill defines ‘family and domestic violence’ as violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by a close relative that seeks to control or cause harm or fear.

According to s106A of the Bill an employee is entitled to five days of unpaid domestic leave in a 12-month period, which would be available at the beginning of the year rather than accruing throughout the year. The leave would not accumulate from year to year and is equally available to part-time and casual employees and not pro-rated. The employee can take the leave for a continuous five-day period, as separate days or in periods that are less than one day if the employer agrees.

Sec 106C stipulates that an employers must treat any information regarding an employee's domestic violence leave confidentially unless disclosure is required by Australian law or to protect a person’s life or safety.

As stated in s106D, if an employee is entitled under state or territory law to leave as a victim of crime, the domestic violence leave applies in addition to that leave and the employee is entitled to both types of leave in full. The employee would also remain protected from unlawful, adverse action under the pre-existing general protecting provisions in the Act.

See also: Mixed reaction to domestic violence leave
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