by Sean Melbourne
Many organisations are wanting to know what the introduction of Family and Domestic Violence Leave means for their business and their employees. Here we set out how the leave works, who’s eligible, and what businesses need to do.
What is family and domestic violence leave? From 1 August 2018, modern awards were varied to give employees five days of unpaid Family and Domestic Violence Leave each year. Domestic violence leave extends beyond employees’ existing personal/carers leave entitlements – it gives employees additional unpaid leave to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence. This includes:
- making arrangements for their safety, or the safety of a family member;
- attending court hearings; and
- accessing police services.
Who is eligible to take the leave? This entitlement applies to all employees (including casuals) who are covered by an industry or occupation-based Award. That means it is not yet available to non-Award employees.
Definition of family and domestic violence: Family and domestic violence means violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s family member that seeks to coerce or control the employee, or causes them fear or harm. Employees can take the leave if they need to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence and it’s impractical to do so outside their ordinary hours of work.
A family member includes an employee’s:
- spouse or former spouse, de facto partner or former de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling;
- current or former spouse or de facto partner’s child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling;
- a person related to the employee according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules.
How to manage Family and Domestic Violence Leave for your business and your employees
How is the leave calculated? Five days of unpaid leave will be available at the commencement of each 12 month period rather than accruing progressively during a year of service. The leave will not accumulate from year to year. It will re-set each year to offer the same five-day unpaid entitlement. The five days can be taken together as consecutive days or separately as individual days.
How much notice does an employee have to provide? Employees must give notice to their employer as soon as practicably possible (which can be after the leave has started). Employees also need to tell their employer how long they expect the leave to last.
What evidence does an employee need to provide? Employees who take domestic violence leave can be asked to provide evidence to show that they took the leave to deal with family and domestic violence. The evidence must be enough to satisfy a reasonable person that the leave is taken for that purpose. That may include a police report, court documents, a note from a family violence support service, or a statutory declaration.
Do I need to have a domestic violence leave policy? You don’t have to have a domestic violence leave policy, but you can if you want to. If you have an existing leave policy (also not compulsory) you could add domestic violence leave to that policy. The notice requirements are similar to personal leave requests.
Do I need to change our employment contracts? There is no need to change your contracts.
Confidentiality requirements: Employers have an obligation to ensure information concerning any notice an employee has given, or evidence an employee has provided in relation to Family and Domestic Violence Leave is treated confidentially. An employer may disclose information provided by an employee if the disclosure is required by an Australian law or is necessary to protect the life, health or safety of the employee or another person.
Need a helping hand?
We all want the best for our employees and our businesses. If you’d like help determining how to best manage this change, get in touch with Sean Melbourne, head of employment law at Source Legal.