Millions of workers in line for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave after Fair Work Commission decision

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Millions of Australian workers covered by the award system may soon have access to 10 days of paid family and domestic violence (FDV) leave a year, after the Fair Work Commission (FWC) gave provisional backing to the new entitlement.

On Monday, the FWC said it agreed in-principle to an Australian Council of Trade Unions proposal, which called for 10 days of paid FDV leave per 12 months for those working under award conditions.

“Full time employees and, on a pro-rata basis, part-time employees, should be entitled to 10 days paid FDV leave per year,” the FWC found.

Those entitlements should accrue progressively over the course of the year, in the same way personal and carer’s leave builds under the National Employment Standards, the FWC said.

The full bench proposed the creation of a draft paid FDV leave model, with the terms to be filed by Friday, June 17.

After receiving submissions from interested parties — and giving the federal government time to undertake any amendments to the National Employment Standards (NES), if it chooses to do so — the FWC intends to file draft directions no later than Friday, July 1.

Nearly one in five women, and one in 16 men, have faced physical and/or sexual abuse from a partner they live with.

Beyond the profound personal and social toll of FDV, “women experiencing or who have experienced FDV have a more disrupted work history; are on lower personal incomes; have had to change jobs frequently; and are more likely to be employed on a casual and part-time basis,” the FWC said.

The financial circumstances of many people experiencing FDV may make it “impossible” to access unpaid leave entitlements, the report added, “with the consequence that they may not be able to relocate, attend court proceedings, obtain medical treatment and other forms of support, and this may inhibit such employees from leaving violent relationships”.

In its deliberations, the full bench of the FWC concluded FDV leave “helps individuals to maintain their economic security; to access relevant services; and to safely exit to a life free from FDV”.

It also found paid FDV leave could benefit employers by lowering absenteeism and lost productivity caused by FDV.

Unions welcome “an historic step”

The ACTU welcomed the FWC decision, calling it “an historic step forward for workers’ rights in Australia”.

However, the union group turned its focus to the terms of the NES, which covers workers outside of the awards system and currently provides five days of unpaid FDV leave.

“The difference between this entitlement being in the award system and the NES cannot be overstated,” said ACTU president Michele O’Neil. “Failing to include it in the NES would deny access to millions of working people.”

The Labor Party has previously called to legislate 10 days of paid FDV leave by tweaking the NES, and the ACTU has called on the Morrison government to match that position.

The Australian Industry (Ai) Group has issued its own response to the FWC decision, outlining a ‘wait-and-see’ approach to the impending draft terms.

After a February Ai Group submission argued updated leave entitlements “would increase employment costs and the regulatory burden” faced by employers, chief executive Innes Willox noted: “The Commission has made a finding that the cost impact on employers is unlikely to be substantial due to the likely low employee rate of access to the entitlement.”

“Ai Group intends to study the decision carefully, consult our members and make further submissions to the Commission over the coming weeks,” he added.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit https://www.1800respect.org.au/

For information about local services, download the free Daisy App https://www.1800respect.org.au/daisy/

Accessible information and support is available via the free Sunny App which has been developed for and by women with disability https://www.1800respect.org.au/sunny/

For Aboriginal Family Domestic Violence Hotline, call 1800 019 123

For legal information, visit the Family Violence Law Help website: https://familyviolencelaw.gov.au

In an emergency, call 000.

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