From 1 February 2023, employees of non-small businesses can access ten days of paid family and domestic violence leave. Similar rules will come into effect for employees of small businesses from 1 August.
This marks a change from previous entitlements, as set out in the National Employment Standards (NES), which granted employees five days unpaid leave.
What is Family & Domestic Violence Leave?
Family and domestic violence occurs where an employee is subjected to violent, threatening or abusive behaviour by a family member that harms the victim or causes them to be fearful.
An employee may take leave if they experience domestic violence and they require time away from work to deal with the consequences of that violence. This can include taking leave to arrange for their safety or the safety of a family member (including housing arrangements), attending court hearings or accessing police services.
How does it work?
An employee who takes family and domestic violence leave must provide notice to their employer as soon as possible (but not necessarily before the leave is taken).
The ten days leave is available in full immediately (or from 1 August for employees of small businesses) and resets on the employee’s work anniversary. It does not accumulate from year to year.
The employer may ask for evidence to substantiate the claim that the employee has been subjected to domestic violence. Evidence can include a statutory declaration or formal documents from the police, court or a support agency. Any evidence provided to an employer must be kept confidential. An employer may not use that information for any other purpose, including taking any adverse action against the employee.
Workplace policies, employment contracts and enterprise awards may specify different domestic violence leave entitlements or conditions. Where the NES specifies a greater amount of leave, the NES will apply.
Employers should therefore review their contracts and workplace policies to see if amendments or updates are required.
Employers should also consider their other obligations. For instance, employers have a duty to provide a safe workplace. A number of victims of domestic violence report that the violence continues in the workplace in some manner. For example, both spouses may work in the same workplace, or the violent partner may otherwise contact the victim at work. Employees may also be eligible to request flexible working arrangements.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has prepared a useful guide (“Employer Guide to Family and Domestic Violence”) to assist employers. You can access it here.
Aintree Group Legal will be happy to consider your employment contracts or workplace policies and advise if any updates are required. Please contact Aintree Group Legal today.
Confidential information, counselling and support for people impacted by domestic and family violence (including employees and employers) is available at 1800Respect (1800respect.org.au).