Domestic violence leave - a workplace right

In the month of November, IEU members campaigned with other union members across Australia for paid family and domestic violence leave.

Family and domestic violence is a widespread problem across Australia. It occurs in all parts of society, regardless of geographic location, socio economic status, age, cultural and ethnic background or religious belief. The evidence shows that one in six women and one in 20 men have experienced at least one incident of violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15. (Australian Bureau of Statistics. Personal Safety Survey. 2012)

Domestic violence is a workplace issue

Many people, subjected to family and domestic violence, are in paid employment.

Family and domestic violence impacts on workplaces through increased absenteeism due to injury, sickness, stress, court attendances and other factors. It limits an employee’s ability to perform effectively, which might result in performance management, terminations and resignations.

Yet the workplace is often the only place where employees can feel safe, gain support or find out about community services that can help.

Through a stable and secure job, employees who are experiencing domestic violence can support themselves and their families financially and plan an exit strategy from the violence at home.

What is family and domestic violence leave?

Paid family and domestic violence leave and protections at work help victims of violence to maintain safe and secure employment.

Paid leave will allow an employee subjected to family and domestic violence to take an absence from work to attend appointments with medical, legal or financial professionals or to make arrangements to relocate or ensure their children’s protection, without suffering financial disadvantage.

This not only supports people subjected to current violence actions, but also facilitates safe escape from dangerous situations, thus helping to reduce or eliminate further violence.

Family and domestic violence leave provisions

Unions and employers have negotiated over 500 workplace agreements which provide for paid family and domestic violence leave across a wide range of industries.

It is a fact that some IEU members have access to specified industrial provisions within their collective agreement which details the care and practical support, including paid leave, available to members experiencing family and domestic violence. In some cases, these collective agreements even include support to those employees who support a person who is experiencing domestic violence. Contact your Union office for advice regarding your collective agreement.

These collective agreement provisions have been successfully achieved through strong membership activism when negotiating working conditions.

However, the sad reality is that there remains a substantial number of staff in non government schools who do not have access to paid family and domestic violence leave and employer support. More needs to be done.

Unions against domestic violence

The ACTU has filed a claim with the Fair Work Commission to have paid family and domestic violence leave included in all Modern Awards. If successful, this claim will:

  • directly benefit more than 6 million workers
  • provide for 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave for employees to attend court appearances; medical and legal appointments •make safety and re-location arrangements, and
  • allow employees to request a change in working arrangements, such as start and finishing times and other safety measures such as changing work email and phone numbers.

A much needed safety net

While the majority of IEU members’ working conditions are covered through enterprise agreements, many do not have access to paid family and domestic violence leave.

The modern awards set the ‘basic safety nets’ for employment conditions for all workers. Any enhancements to the modern award safety net must ultimately be reflected in enterprise agreements. Enterprise agreements must be able to meet the Better Off Overall Test against the relevant modern award.

Therefore, the successful inclusion of paid family and domestic violence leave into modern awards will provide the much needed safety net for all workers.

Fair Work Commission needs to agree

The claim for family and domestic violence leave will go before the Fair Work Commission this month for consideration by all parties.

This is an historic opportunity for the Fair Work Commission to ensure that all Australians can access the support they need to escape family and domestic violence and rebuild their lives.

It is imperative that this application for family and domestic violence leave is supported.