As a result of a decision by the Fair Work Commission, employees (including casual employees) covered by an award are entitled to take unpaid leave to deal with family and domestic violence. This new change to the employment awards does not apply to employees who are covered by enterprise or public sector awards. It also does not apply to employees who are award and agreement free, such as high income earners who earn over $145,000 per year. This new update applies from the first full pay period on or after 1 August 2018 and allows for 5 days unpaid leave for a person affected by family and domestic violence. If the 5 days leave isn’t used one year, it does not accumulate overtime. This additional new leave entitlement does not change other leave entitlements that employees are already entitled to.
Employees can take the leave if they need time to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence and they can’t practically do so outside their ordinary hours of work. This may include attending court hearings, making arrangements for the safety of family members and accessing police services. For the purposes of the leave entitlement, family and domestic violence means that the employee is experiencing violent, threatening or abusive behaviour by a family member towards them that causes harm or fear or seeks to control or coerce them in some way. A family member includes: the employee’s current spouse or de facto or former spouse or de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling or a person related to the employee according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules.
An employer can ask their employee for evidence showing that the leave taken was to deal with family and domestic violence. Evidence could include documents issued by the police service, documents issued by a court, family violence support documents, etc.
Employers of employees under modern awards should be wary of these new changes and update workplace policies accordingly.