Family and domestic violence is not just a private issue. It is an issue which can have a significant effect on a person’s ability to lead a productive life and can impact the victim’s financial stress, isolation, vulnerability and create a sense of shame.
Without appropriate support being available for victims, the impact of family and domestic violence on individuals can present many implications for workplaces. Employers are encouraged to build up their level of knowledge and awareness so as to ensure that they can help provide support to an employee should they become a victim, as well as to ensure that they can meet their workplace obligations and provide a safe workplace.
What is family and domestic violence?
The Fair Work Act 2009 defines family and domestic violence as being violent, threatening, or other abusive behaviour by a close relative that seeks to coerce or control the employee and causes them harm or to be fearful.
A close relative is deemed to be an employee’s:
• spouse or former spouse
• de facto partner or former de facto partner
• an employee’s current or former spouse or de facto partner’s child, parent, grandparent,
grandchild or sibling, or
• a person related to the employee according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules.
What are your legal responsibilities as an employer?
As an employer, it is important to be aware that the Fair Work Act 2009 does provide minimum entitlements that employees dealing with the impact of family and domestic violence can access.
• take unpaid family and domestic violence leave
• request flexible working arrangements
• take paid or unpaid personal/carer’s leave, in certain circumstances.
What is unpaid family and domestic violence leave?
Employees (including casual and part-time employees) are entitled to 5 days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each 12 month period.
• is available in full when an employee starts working at a new workplace
• does not accumulate from year to year if it is not used
• renews in full at the start of each 12 month period of employment
• can be taken as a single continuous period or separate periods of one or more days.
Employers and employees can agree for an employee to take less than one day at a time, or for the employee to take more than 5 days of unpaid domestic and family violence leave.
When can employees take unpaid family and domestic violence leave?
Employees can take leave when they:
• are experiencing family and domestic violence
• need to do something to deal with the impact of that violence and it is impractical to do so outside their ordinary hours of work.
This could include making arrangements for their safety or the safety of a close relative, attending urgent court hearings, or to access police services.
What are the notice and evidence requirements?
If an employee takes family and domestic violence leave, they are required to notify their employer as soon as possible (this may occur after the leave has started) of the absence and how long they expect the leave to last.
An employer can ask the employee to provide evidence, which may include documents issued by the police, documents issued by a court, family violence support service documents, or a statutory declaration.
What confidentiality obligations apply for family and domestic violence victims?
As an employer, you are required to take all reasonably practical steps to keep any information about an employee’s situation confidential. This includes information about the employee applying for and taking family and domestic violence leave, including leave records as well as any evidence provided by the employee.
Any information about an employee’s experience of family and domestic violence is highly sensitive. If mishandled, this information could have adverse consequences for their employee including serious injury or harm. It is recommended that employers work directly with the employee to discuss and agree on how this information will be handled.
Employers are not prevented from disclosing information if it is required by law, or if it is necessary to protect the life, health or safety of the employee or another person.
If you require assistance with managing such matters, or if you require HR Advice, please contact the team at HR Advice Online on 1300 720 004.
Information in HR Advice Online guides and blog posts is meant purely for educational discussion of human resources issues. It contains only general information about human resources matters and due to factors such as government legislation changes, may not be up-to-date at the time of reading. It is not legal advice and should not be treated as such.