Effective from 1 August 2018, all award-based full-time, part-time and casual employees are entitled to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave.
In March this year, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) provisionally ruled to include this model term in modern awards to assist workers dealing with abusive relationships.
Under this provision, non-cumulative leave is available, in full, at the start of each year (not pro-rated), in the event an employee needs to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence, and it is impractical for them to do so outside their ordinary hours of work.
Currently, only employees covered by a modern award can access this entitlement, however, the Federal Government has agreed to legislate for this entitlement to become part of the National Employment Standards (NES).
When this entitlement becomes part of legislation within the NES, it will apply to all employees, not just those to whom a modern award applies.
Employers’ obligations under privacy laws
Under privacy law obligations, employers will have to balance concerns for the safety of their employees with the need to respect their privacy and confidence.
To guard against any potential liability in connection with the disclosure of family and domestic abuse, you should take the following steps to meet your privacy obligations:
- Clear policies and procedures are in place for contact officers to follow, with a specific procedure for escalating concerns of family and domestic violence to senior management.
- Contact officers advise employees using their services that privacy will be maintained to the fullest extent possible, but that escalation may be necessary in certain circumstances, and that their consent will always be sought before the matter is taken any further.
- Any suspicions of child sexual abuse are immediately reported to senior management and to the police, unless the contact officer has a genuine fear that reporting the matter may threaten the safety of another person.
- Direct contact officers escalate any reports of abuse, whether physical or verbal, occurring at the workplace or while the employee is working from home.
- Direct contact officers escalate to senior management any disclosures that cause them to fear for the safety of the individual.
- All employees disclosing family and domestic abuse are offered referrals to support services, and that employees who disclose serious abuse that threatens their physical safety are encouraged to report the matter to the police.
- Contact officers are provided with access to counselling and support services.