Up to six million Australians will soon have access to a guaranteed entitlement of five days’ unpaid family and domestic violence leave following the passing of the Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill in Parliament last night.
Senior Employment Relations Adviser, from workplace specialist firm Employsure, Andrew Spiteri says, “This Bill is making it a requirement for employers to have a policy for dealing with domestic violence and supporting victims.”
He adds, “Employers should always take the necessary steps to ensure staff feel safe talking about sensitive topics such as domestic violence. They need to reassure their staff that all conversations will be handled appropriately and will be confidential.”
What is the entitlement?
Employees entitled to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year. “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.
Who does it apply to?
The changes will see the Fair Work Act amended to offer an entitlement to unpaid family and domestic violence leave in the National Employment Standards. This entitlement applies to six million Australian employees, including those working full-time, casually, and part-time across all industries.
When does it apply?
Spiteri says, “The legislation is set to receive Royal Assent in the coming days, making it a legal entitlement for every employee under the national system in Australia.”
How much proof will an employee have to provide so they can be eligible for this new leave entitlement?
“The law is deliberately flexible to make it accessible. Therefore, there is no requirement for an AVO to be in place. However, there are some good ways to validate the request. The evidence can come in a number of forms; such as a police report, court documents, a note from a family violence support service, or a statutory declaration.”
What do employers need to do now?
According to Spiteri, it is essential for employers to communicate this new leave entitlement to employees, to ensure they are aware of how and when to notify them of their request for this leave. “The notice requirements are similar to personal leave requests. Employers can set their expectations. The best way to do this is to first have an open and relaxed conversation with employees about this leave entitlement and how they want them to approach taking some time off. Then, employers should include it in their policy.”
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