The statistics on domestic violence in Australia are staggering. WhiteRibbon.org.au reports that an average of one woman a week is murdered by their current or former partner.  With thousands of people (including men, women and children) across the country experiencing domestic and family violence in their homes, recent changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 are intended to help provide certainty about requesting time off from work whilst managing these challenging situations.

From 12 December 2018, the Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Act 2018 came into place. This amendment provides an entitlement to up to 5 days, per year, of unpaid family and domestic violence leave through the National Employment Standards (NES). Earlier in the year, this entitlement was inserted into all awards, so the addition to the NES is to ensure coverage for all employees, whether covered by an award or any other employment agreement.

This unpaid leave is available to casual, part-time and full-time employees. No minimum service time is required in order to access this unpaid leave.

The Fair Work news update elaborates that:

Family and domestic violence is violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by a close relative of an employee that:

  • seeks to coerce or control the employee
  • causes the employee harm or to be fearful.

A close relative of the employee is a person who:

  • is a member of the employee’s immediate family, or
  • is related to the employee according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules.

Employees can take the leave if they need to do something to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence and it’s impractical to do so outside their ordinary hours of work.

If your business does not operate under the modern award system (perhaps with an enterprise agreement or award free employees), now is the time to review your leave request processes to ensure any requests for family and domestic violence leave are managed in accordance with these changes.

Confidential information, counselling and support for people impacted by domestic and family violence is available at the 1800 RESPECT website, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.