Fast Lane: Holiday leave, sick leave… domestic violence leave a step too far for small business

Your business must provide employees with holiday leave, sick leave and parental leave. Perhaps you also offer compassionate leave and carers leave. But now there’s a new leave to add to the list – domestic violence leave.

Over the weekend the National Australia Bank became the largest private-sector employer to offer the entitlement.

NAB will now support employees who experience domestic violence by providing access to counselling and additional leave “as required” for an unlimited period of time.

“NAB’s approach will help to ensure that those affected can stay financially independent which is crucial for surviving and escaping a violent relationship,” Lynda Dean, general manager for workplace performance at NAB, said in a statement.

Only two years since the first agreement for paid domestic violence leave was signed at the Surf Coast Shire Council in Torquay it is now estimated as many as 1 million Australian workers have access to paid domestic violence leave and many more are poised to get it.

The Surf Coast Shire’s deal provided an extra 20 days a year of paid leave in what was the world’s most progressive workplace deal on family violence.

Since then dozens of agreements have been signed across Australia but these have been mainly limited to the public service.

The NAB deal signals more and more public and private businesses are now offering domestic violence leave.

It’s commendable the bank has introduced domestic violence leave but at the moment implementing a leave policy like this is left up to individual businesses and that’s the way it should remain.

Small and medium size businesses shouldn’t have to enter into yet another layer of red tape by being forced to offer domestic violence leave.

The reality is smaller businesses are often able to offer flexibility to staff dealing with personal issues like domestic violence and respond to their individual needs without resorting to a policy for every potential problem.

For most SMEs a requirement to offer domestic violence leave is going to be a step too far.


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