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New Family and Domestic Violence Leave – Key Changes to the Fair Work Act Every Employer Should Know

Author: Robert Lamb
2 min read
06 August 2019

Key Takeaways

  • The Fair Work Act now has provision for leave for victims of domestic and family violence
  • Employer’s obligations when an employee experiences family and domestic violence
  • An employer’s obligations under the criminal law or health and safety laws

Family and domestic violence is all too prevalent in Australia and unfortunately it is on the rise.

The Australian Government’s statistics reveal that intimate partner violence causes more illness, disability and deaths than any other risk factor for women aged between 25-44.

Family and domestic violence occurs across all ages, socio-economic and demographic groups, but according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare “it mainly affects women and children. Indigenous women, young women and pregnant women are particularly at risk”.

One in six Australian women and one in 16 men have been subjected, since the age of 15, to physical and/or sexual violence by a current or previous cohabiting partner (AIHW Report 2018).

Victims of this violence often feel unable or unwilling to seek help for a number of reasons. They may feel bound by children and family structures or financial reliance on their partner. This can make them feel trapped.

Violence of this nature also happens to be the leading cause of homelessness for all demographic groups in Australia.

Fortunately, awareness of the impact of this violence is changing. The consequences can be mentally and physically devastating and as such, it can deeply impact the victim’s ability to work and their financial situation.

Changes to the Fair Work Act in relation to Family and Domestic Violence

There have been some recent changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the Fair Work Act) and other laws impacting on an employer’s obligations when an employee experiences family and domestic violence.

For the purposes of the Fair Work Act, family and domestic violence is defined as “violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by a family member that seeks to coerce or control, and cause harm or fear.”

Under recent changes to the law: 

  • All employees (including part-time and casual employees) are entitled to five days unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year.
  • An employee may request their employer change their working arrangements such as hours, patterns or place of work, if they are experiencing family or domestic violence or have to provide care or support to someone who is experiencing family or domestic violence. An employer can only refuse such a request on reasonable business grounds.

An employer also has to be aware of their obligations under the criminal law (an obligation to report domestic or family violence may arise) or health and safety laws (for example if the employee is working from home).

We have experience in providing advice, strategies and policies in relation to employment law, including issues such as family and domestic violence.

We ensure an employer’s obligations under changes to the law are dealt with in a way that protects both employer and employee. 

The information in this blog is intended only to provide a general overview and has not been prepared with a view to any particular situation or set of circumstances. It is not intended to be comprehensive nor does it constitute legal advice. While we attempt to ensure the information is current and accurate we do not guarantee its currency and accuracy. You should seek legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the information in this blog as it may not be appropriate for your individual circumstances.

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