As of 1 August 2018, all modern awards now include an entitlement to 5 days of unpaid ‘family and domestic violence leave’ (FDV leave).
This new leave entitlement is designed to assist victims of family and domestic violence who need time to do something to deal with or alleviate the effects of family violence, but are unable to do so while attending their regular work schedules. Family and domestic violence is defined as violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s family member that seeks to coerce or control the employee, or causes them harm or fear.
Each award-covered employee is entitled to 5 days’ unpaid FDV leave per year, which accrues all at once at the beginning of each year, but does not accumulate for year to year. Employees are not required to have taken any sort of paid leave before electing to take unpaid FDV leave. Specific notice and evidence requirements apply under the FDV provisions and, crucially, an employer must take steps to ensure information concerning FDV leave is kept confidential.
Following the decision of the Fair Work Commission to include FDV leave in all modern awards, the Turnbull government has signalled that it intends in due course to implement these changes as part of the National Employment Standards. This would extend the protective provisions to all workers, including those not covered by a modern award.
The Commission has also indicated that it will in June 2021 re-examine the issue of domestic violence, in order to assess the potential need and effectiveness of a paid leave scheme.
Employers are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the FDV leave provisions in awards, and consider updating policies and procedures to reflect the entitlements.