A new form of paid leave has been introduced nationally to assist employees who are experiencing family and domestic violence. We outline the facts about the scheme and how it affects small business employers.
What is family and domestic violence?
According to 1800 Respect, domestic and family violence happens when one person in a relationship hurts another or makes them feel unsafe, and is an ongoing, repeated pattern of behaviour that is designed to coerce or control a person or cause them harm or fear. Abuse can be physical, psychological, financial, sexual or in another form, and can come from anyone a victim is in a close relationship with (not just an intimate partner).
In Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in six women and one in 16 men experiences family and domestic violence in their lifetime. In addition, every 10 days a woman is murdered by her current or former partner. Many of these victims are in paid employment and their workplace often functions as a safe place away from the violence as well as an essential source of social and economic support.
Why is the paid family and domestic violence leave scheme being introduced?
Maintaining stable employment is an important measure to help support people to escape abusive relationships. The introduction of paid leave is intended to allow victims of family and domestic violence to take time off work without losing their income or jobs, to help them exit dangerous or harmful domestic situations.
Being subject to family and domestic violence can affect a worker’s productivity due to unplanned absences or distress that prevents them from carrying out their work to their full potential, so addressing this issue also benefits employers.
Who can access paid family and domestic violence leave?
Any full time, part time or casual employee in Australia whose employer is covered by the national industrial relations system can access 10 days of paid leave in a 12 month period under the new scheme.
Employees can access paid domestic violence leave if they need time to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence, including:
- taking care of their safety, or the safety of a close relative (including relocation)
- attending court
- accessing police services
- attending appointments with counsellors or medical, financial or legal professionals.
The leave does not accrue, and resets every year on the employee’s work anniversary.
The new paid leave replaces an existing entitlement of five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave available under the National Employment Standards (NES). Employees can still access the unpaid leave until paid leave is available for their workplace.
Does it apply to small business employers?
The family and domestic violence leave is available to all employees of small businesses that are covered by the national (Fair Work) industrial relations system (usually incorporated businesses - those with “Pty Ltd” or “Ltd” in their name).
The scheme does not yet apply to employers under WA’s state industrial relations system (such as sole traders and partnerships). However, it is likely to come into effect for state system employers in 2024.
In the state industrial relations system, full time, part time and casual employees are entitled to five days’ unpaid family and domestic violence leave in each 12 month period. The five days’ unpaid leave is available in full to part time and casual employees (it is not pro rata based on hours of employment). This leave is available in full at the start of each 12 month period of the employee’s employment and does not accumulate from year to year.
If you are unsure if your business is covered by the state or national industrial relations system, you can contact Wageline at the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety on 1300 655 266 or view the guide to the WA state industrial relations system for more information.
How much are employees entitled to under the scheme?
Full-time and part-time employees in the national industrial relations system are entitled to be paid at their full pay rate for the hours they would have worked if they weren't on leave. Casual employees will be paid at their full pay rate for any hours they were rostered to work in the period they took leave.
When accessing this leave, the employee may need to provide evidence to their employer, such as:
- a statutory declaration
- documents issued by the police
- documents issued by a court, or
- family violence support service documents.
What should you do if you are concerned about an employee?
In an emergency, or if you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call the police now on 000.
If it is not an emergency, and you wish to report an incident of family and domestic violence, call the police on 131 444.
Providing a supportive and safe workplace is an important part of being a good employer. If you suspect an employee is experiencing family and domestic violence, it’s important to check on their wellbeing and encourage them to access professional help. However, some employees will feel ashamed of being ‘victims’ and will not want to talk about their experiences. You may wish to make information about support services such as 1800 Respect or your Employee Assistance Program available for anyone in your workplace to access.
- Access Fair Work’s Employer Guide to Family and Domestic Violence
- Find out about unpaid family and domestic violence leave for employees in the WA State industrial relations system.
- Twenty-four hour confidential information, counselling and support for people impacted by family and domestic violence and their employers is available from 1800 RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.
- Our free and confidential business advisory service is available to all WA small businesses.
Photo note: Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, the person pictured in this blog is a model and their image is used for illustrative purposes only.