A new bill is being introduced by the Australian Labor Party (ALP) providing affected workers access to ten days’ paid domestic violence leave under the National Employment Standards (the Bill). This move comes following recent comments made by opposition leader Anthony Albanese, confirming that domestic violence is an “epidemic” in Australia.
Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney has introduced a private members’ bill to parliament, calling for ten days paid domestic and family violence leave.
“No one should have to choose between their livelihoods and their safety,” Burney said in parliament on Monday.
“This is why we are introducing this private members’ bill to provide for ten days paid domestic and family violence leave in the National Employment Standards.”
As the law currently stands, domestic violence victims can get up to five days of unpaid leave each year under the National Employment Standards, after the Fair Work Commission ruled in mid-2018 it should be part of all modern industry awards and subsequent legislation expanded its coverage to all permanent employees.
In July 2020, the Australian Institute of Criminology recorded that almost 10% of Australian women in a relationship had experienced domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, workers have access to five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year. The ALP is calling for the introduction of 10 days of paid leave as it would provide important time and financial support for safety measures such as “finding a new place to live; seeking legal support; receiving medical treatment; or enrolling their children in a new school”.
Domestic violence against women and their children, costs the Australian economy $22 billion per year, with $860 million of that attributed to absenteeism from paid and unpaid work as well as an inability for individuals to perform household tasks and voluntary work (KPMG 2016). Social Services spokeswoman for the ALP, Linda Burney, states that “no one should have to make the choice between their earning capacity and their safety”.
Many companies and large-scale employers in Australia currently offer some form of paid domestic violence leave for their workers. Last week, it was revealed by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency that more than a third of companies in Australia already offer some form of paid domestic leave, whilst only two-thirds actually had a policy or strategy in place for it.
The Bill, if passed, seeks to improve this. It will be introduced to Parliament over the next fortnight, or when Parliament resumes in early 2021.
This is an opportunity for employers to consider reviewing their support of employees affected by family and domestic violence. If you require any assistance in drafting domestic violence support policies or amending of employment contracts to reflect the potential new changes, please do not hesitate to contact Nick Stevens, Luke Maroney or Bernard Cheng.
If you, or someone you know is affected by domestic and family violence, contact 1800Respect on 1800 737 732, or head to https://www.dss.gov.au/women/help-is-here-campaign for more information on help services available to you.