Modern awards currently provide for an employee entitlement of 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave per year. Last week, a Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) decided this entitlement should be enhanced to 10 days of paid leave per year.
The FWC observed that family and domestic violence is a workplace issue that disproportionately affects women and has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The adverse workplace-related impact on those who experience it included:
- a more disrupted work history;
- lower personal incomes;
- more frequent job changes; and
- an increased likelihood of casual and part-time work.
The FWC ruled the leave should be paid for employees to maintain their employment and financial security while dealing with the effects of family and domestic violence. If it was not paid, employees would be less inclined to take it, resulting in inability to relocate, attend court proceedings, or obtain medical treatment or other forms of support, which may inhibit them from leaving violent relationships.
Around one-third of recent enterprise agreements include paid family and domestic violence entitlements, with the most common number of paid leave days being 10.
The FWC noted the offsetting benefits to employers such as a reduction in absenteeism and lost productivity caused by family and domestic violence.
Casual employees will not be entitled to paid leave. The leave will not be available when the violence is perpetrated by a member of the employee’s household who is not related to the employee. The FWC also rejected the proposal to allow up to 5 days of additional unpaid leave per occasion once paid leave was exhausted.
The Federal Labor Government has promised to legislate to amend the National Employment Standards (NES) to provide for 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave. Currently, the NES provide for 5 unpaid days per year.