Changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) came into force on the 1st of August 2018 allowing all award covered employees access to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave.


The new leave entitlement is the result of a recent Fair Work Commission decision delivered in July 2018, and will cover all award employees, including casual workers. The leave does not accumulate and is available each calendar year, regardless of the duration of employment.


Although the current legislation has limited access to family violence leave to award employees only, it can be assumed that parties to industrial bargaining will consider following suite when drafting new enterprise agreements and considering if an agreement passes the Better Off Overall Test.


Domestic Violence, A Workplace Issue

You may be wondering how domestic violence has come to be considered a workplace issue. Domestic violence can include verbal, physical or sexual abuse by current or former intimate partners. Family issues can affect a workers ability to concentrate at work, attendance and productivity. In extreme circumstances, victims of family violence may need to take leave to attend legal appointments; counselling and support services; or sick leave to recover from health issues.


In addition, American research has found that between 50% and 74% of employees experiencing family violence have been harassed by their partner whilst at work, further impacting their ability to effectively perform their role.


Impact of Family and Domestic Violence Leave

The introduction of family violence leave for award employees has solidified existing discrimination protections. Additionally, the financial security of employment plays a critical role in assisting victims of family violence when leaving a toxic environment. Finally, the Commissions recognition of the impact of family violence within the workplace serves as an education tool. Increasing education around this issue helps raise awareness about the impact of family violence, and facilitates the adoption of preventative measures to reduce the rate of family violence within Australia.


Ultimately, domestic violence is an issue that cannot be addressed by the Commission alone. However, in introducing family violence leave the Commission is sending a clear message that family violence is a prevalent issue affecting the workplace; victims are not alone in their experience and support is available to those who require it.


For more information, please visit 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.


Written by: Jessie Nygh