Over 2.2 million Australian women have experienced family and domestic violence, and it’s becoming a huge issue for our society. It’s staggering to know that at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner. As a result, the Fair Work Commission has been considering submissions on how to be manage the effects on employees and their employers in the workplace.
In 2017, the Fair Work Commission rejected an ACTU claim for paid leave, however it did set the wheels in motion for a decision for unpaid family and domestic violence leave. The decision, announced this week, means that 5 days unpaid leave per annum will be available to all employees (including casuals) experiencing family and domestic violence. This leave should give those employees some time when they may otherwise be working, to make arrangements they need for their safety. Whether those in this position will also be entitled to choose to take their paid personal/carer’s leave (if available) in this scenario is still to be determined.
The Full Bench made the decision that the 5 days unpaid family and domestic leave:
“- will apply to all employees (including casuals);
– will be available in full at the commencement of each 12 month period rather than accruing progressively during a year of service;
– will not accumulate from year to year; and
– will be available in full to part-time and casual employees (i.e. not pro-rated).”
Wording to be included in the Modern Awards is still to be determined, along with its application to the Australian Government Industry Award 2016, the Road Transport and Distribution Award 2010 and the Road Transport (Long Distance Operations) Award 2010. This is because these awards are subject to a separate claim. It is expected that these changes will be implemented from 1 July 2018.
Various private and government agencies already have family and domestic violence entitlements written into their enterprise agreements. The terms of these agreements will continue to apply, as the change is relevant to the modern awards, rather than the National Employment Standards (NES).
The Small Business Minister, Craig Laundy, has said: “We want to ensure a consistent safety net for employees covered by the national workplace system, so we will amend the [Fair Work] Act in line with the final model clause to give other federal system employees access to unpaid leave on the same terms.” Should this be passed by parliament, 5 days unpaid leave for family and domestic violence would be available for all Australian employees, not just award-based employees.
We expect to see business owners and managers treating requests to access this leave in a reasonable manner, however being upfront with your employees about what’s expected in relation to communicating a request for leave is a good idea. Then, when the time comes to request any time leave, there is a simple process to follow, making the request easier for both parties.
Should you have any questions or concerns about how to best handle these changes, give our team a call on 1300 766 380.