INSIGHT

Are your employees entitled to unpaid family and domestic violence leave?

By Simon Dewberry
Employment & Safety Industrials Litigation

In brief

All modern award-covered employees, including casual employees, are now entitled to a new form of leave to deal with family and domestic violence. Associate Jessica Light reports.

How does it affect you?

  • Employers must allow modern award-covered employees up to five days' unpaid leave each year if they are experiencing family and domestic violence, and need to deal with its impact during their ordinary hours of work.
  • Employers should consider and update any current policy about family and domestic violence leave. If a policy already provides for this type of leave but a lesser amount, award-covered employees will still be entitled to the five days of leave under the modern award.

Background

Modern award-covered employees are entitled to access five days' unpaid leave each year if they:

  • are experiencing family and domestic violence; and
  • need to do something to deal with the impact of the family and domestic violence, but it is impractical for them to do that outside their ordinary hours of work.

An employee may take leave to eg make arrangements for their safety or the safety of a family member. In this context, family and domestic violence means violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by a family member that seeks to coerce or control the employee, and that causes them harm or to be fearful. This type of leave:

  • does not accrue throughout the year and does not accumulate from year to year – an employee has a full five days at the start of each 12-month period of employment;
  • is available in full to all employees, including part-time and casual employees; and
  • requires the employee to give notice and, if required by the employer, evidence about the leave.

Employers must take steps to ensure that information and evidence employees provide is treated confidentially.

What should you do?

In addition to ensuring that modern award-covered employees can properly access this entitlement to leave, employers should consider whether their existing leave policies require amending to reflect the new modern award minimum entitlements.

Employers should also consider whether they have adequate processes in place to ensure that any request for unpaid family and domestic violence is dealt with appropriately and confidentially.