Family and domestic violence leave was introduced into the National Employment Standards in late 2018, becoming an entitlement for all employees including part-time and casuals. This has prompted business owners to consider their compliance and management skills in sensitive situations.

Our Watch, a national organisation established to drive changes in behaviour that lead to violence against women, states that 1 in 3 women have experience physical violence since the age of 15. Consider how this figure affects your workforce.

Our Watch also report violence against women costs the Australian employers $1.3 billion each year in the form of absenteeism, loss of productivity and the impact it has on other employees.

Its statistics like these that lead to the addition of family and domestic violence leave, a significant development in Australian workplace relations.

What are employees entitled to under family and domestic violence leave? 

Employees are entitled to a minimum of 5 days of unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence matters. These matters could include attending court hearings, attending counselling or making safety arrangements for themselves and other family members. 

The leave can be used as individual days, for a period of less than a day or in 1 go. It is available in full and immediately every 12 months of employment but does not accrue.

It’s important employees do not take sick leave or personal leave to deal with this type of issue as they would be in breach of the Fair Work Act. It is the employer’s responsibility to educate employees of the new entitlements.

Employer’s responsibility

Employers have the delicate task of balancing their obligations to employees experiencing domestic violence, while managing the health and safety of other employees in the workplace. For example, a payroll officer who is required to keep records of leave requests.

To manage employee expectations and requests, you should:
  • create a family and domestic violence workplace policy detailing the leave entitlements and distribute to your workforce 
  • provide frequent workplace training for employees and managers
  • notify employees of notice periods and evidence requirements that must be satisfied when a request is made
  • outline how sensitive information and confidentiality will be managed when leave is requested

You should also provide training and support for managers (and other employees) who may find themselves managing an affected employee’s circumstances.

Maintain boundaries

Be sure not to try and solve an employee’s problems, or fill the shoes of a counsellor. There are a number of services and resources available to help. These include:
If you have any questions, please call the Workplace Advice Line on 13 29 59.