Domestic violence leave as a workplace right


The country’s workplace laws could be expanded to include domestic violence leave as part of reforms recommended by the first Royal Commission into Family Violence. Chief among the proposals is an amendment to the Fair Work Act to include an entitlement to paid family and domestic violence leave for employees, and unpaid leave for casual workers. The report received an enthusiastic response from state and federal governments, and attempts will now be made to flesh out the practicalities.  

Australia is experiencing a sharp spike in reports of domestic violence. Last year, more than 50,000 cases were reported, not including Queensland and Victoria. However, the Department of Human Services estimates that 80 per cent of cases go unreported. The estimated annual cost of domestic violence is $13 billion.

In some states, domestic violence leave is already a reality – despite the federal government stripping the entitlement from commonwealth public servants in March. Last year, Queensland introduced a minimum of 10 days paid leave for public sector employees. South Australia announced 15 days of paid leave for public servants starting this year. And Australian unions are pushing to have paid leave included in all awards.

The private sector has also led the way in implementing domestic violence leave. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has found that a third of major private sector employers have a family and domestic violence leave policy. Telstra was among the first in 2015, and since then companies such as KPMG, Woolworths, Qantas, NAB, Kmart and PwC have followed suit. Now, nearly 2 million Australians have access to some form of domestic violence support from their workplace.

“Domestic violence leave is important on a practical level but also on a symbolic level,” says Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW. “It sends out a really clear message within workplaces that impacts of domestic violence are recognised and taken seriously by employers.”

Workplaces are an extension of an employee’s community, which means they have a significant role to play. A recent survey of 100 businesses across a range of industries found that more than one third of employers had granted at least on request for family violence leave in the past 12 months.

PwC gives employees 10 days of paid domestic violence leave. Debra Eckersley, head of HR for PwC, says this covers things that don’t fit into other leave entitlements, such as counselling, attending court dates and doctor’s visits. But the policy extends beyond paid time off.

“Domestic violence is a workplace issue because many victims are working,” Eckersley says. “Evidence suggests that people experience some aspects of domestic violence at work, such as harassing phone calls or stalking. This means we have to make sure that workplaces are supportive environments for them.”

In order for workplace domestic violence policies to be successful, a few things need to happen. First, they need to be gender blind, because “most are women, but not all,” says Eckersley. Therefore, policies should apply to all employees.  

Awareness is also important. PwC trained nearly 80 people through rape and domestic violence services about how to respond when an employee says they are experiencing domestic violence. The company publicised who those individuals were, and that they were contactable at any time.

“You need to let people know they can have these conversations without judgement,” Eckersley says. Confidentiality must be guaranteed, and all final decisions must be made in collaboration with the individual experiencing domestic violence. This includes whether or not they want to disclose what’s happening with their co-workers. “If they need extended time off work, you need ask them how they would like to handle that with their team.”

Other minor aspects of work life should be addressed as well. “Our aim is to make sure the person is safe,” she says. “That might include changing their bank details, work phone numbers and email addresses in company directories, for example.”

Individuals, especially managers and company leaders, should be trained how to spot the signs of domestic violence. This includes physical signs of injury, but also changes in behaviour such as arriving late, consistently calling in sick or or being distracted at work.

“We always aim to understand how our people are feeling,” says Eckersley. “Don’t pry, don’t assume, but encourage people to be open and let them know that help is there if they need it.”

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Mary
Mary
8 years ago

I understand that this is a sensitive subject and certainly would assist an employee having difficulty but the amount of ‘leave entitlements’ employees have nowadays in Australia compared to other westernised countries is getting out of hand. Who pays for this and why does the employer have to know how to ‘handle’ these situations? Please consider that an employer is often only one person and they are expected to know and train others on a myriad of things these ‘entitlements’ bring about plus pay for them! Employers are humans too don’t forget. These costs usually cannot be passed on to… Read more »

David
David
8 years ago

Mary, If employers can offshore their business they will, they are not waiting around domestic violence leave to send them on their way. If providing some time off work for to say, a woman who has been bashed by her husband and has to make new living arrangements for herself and children, is going to push the business over the edge, let it be pushed. A rainy week or interest rate increase would have closed it anyway. On an economy wide basis capital has never had a larger share of GDP over labour. If small business wants efficiency and a… Read more »

suzana
suzana
6 years ago

Hi I was part time(maybe still)and my boss said to me I have to be available always 3 days ( Wednesday, Thursday and Friday)and to work only with her and her husband with another dentist other girls.but when my boss was on course or overseas she will give me off ( not pay) I was ok with that and she was paid me only every 3 months 3 days holiday.when someone was sick I was working even Monday or Tuesday sometimes Saturday for same averaged. Now I got AVO On 26/27/11/2017 I was in hospital ( punched in my head… Read more »

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Domestic violence leave as a workplace right


The country’s workplace laws could be expanded to include domestic violence leave as part of reforms recommended by the first Royal Commission into Family Violence. Chief among the proposals is an amendment to the Fair Work Act to include an entitlement to paid family and domestic violence leave for employees, and unpaid leave for casual workers. The report received an enthusiastic response from state and federal governments, and attempts will now be made to flesh out the practicalities.  

Australia is experiencing a sharp spike in reports of domestic violence. Last year, more than 50,000 cases were reported, not including Queensland and Victoria. However, the Department of Human Services estimates that 80 per cent of cases go unreported. The estimated annual cost of domestic violence is $13 billion.

In some states, domestic violence leave is already a reality – despite the federal government stripping the entitlement from commonwealth public servants in March. Last year, Queensland introduced a minimum of 10 days paid leave for public sector employees. South Australia announced 15 days of paid leave for public servants starting this year. And Australian unions are pushing to have paid leave included in all awards.

The private sector has also led the way in implementing domestic violence leave. The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has found that a third of major private sector employers have a family and domestic violence leave policy. Telstra was among the first in 2015, and since then companies such as KPMG, Woolworths, Qantas, NAB, Kmart and PwC have followed suit. Now, nearly 2 million Australians have access to some form of domestic violence support from their workplace.

“Domestic violence leave is important on a practical level but also on a symbolic level,” says Moo Baulch, CEO of Domestic Violence NSW. “It sends out a really clear message within workplaces that impacts of domestic violence are recognised and taken seriously by employers.”

Workplaces are an extension of an employee’s community, which means they have a significant role to play. A recent survey of 100 businesses across a range of industries found that more than one third of employers had granted at least on request for family violence leave in the past 12 months.

PwC gives employees 10 days of paid domestic violence leave. Debra Eckersley, head of HR for PwC, says this covers things that don’t fit into other leave entitlements, such as counselling, attending court dates and doctor’s visits. But the policy extends beyond paid time off.

“Domestic violence is a workplace issue because many victims are working,” Eckersley says. “Evidence suggests that people experience some aspects of domestic violence at work, such as harassing phone calls or stalking. This means we have to make sure that workplaces are supportive environments for them.”

In order for workplace domestic violence policies to be successful, a few things need to happen. First, they need to be gender blind, because “most are women, but not all,” says Eckersley. Therefore, policies should apply to all employees.  

Awareness is also important. PwC trained nearly 80 people through rape and domestic violence services about how to respond when an employee says they are experiencing domestic violence. The company publicised who those individuals were, and that they were contactable at any time.

“You need to let people know they can have these conversations without judgement,” Eckersley says. Confidentiality must be guaranteed, and all final decisions must be made in collaboration with the individual experiencing domestic violence. This includes whether or not they want to disclose what’s happening with their co-workers. “If they need extended time off work, you need ask them how they would like to handle that with their team.”

Other minor aspects of work life should be addressed as well. “Our aim is to make sure the person is safe,” she says. “That might include changing their bank details, work phone numbers and email addresses in company directories, for example.”

Individuals, especially managers and company leaders, should be trained how to spot the signs of domestic violence. This includes physical signs of injury, but also changes in behaviour such as arriving late, consistently calling in sick or or being distracted at work.

“We always aim to understand how our people are feeling,” says Eckersley. “Don’t pry, don’t assume, but encourage people to be open and let them know that help is there if they need it.”

Subscribe to receive comments
Notify me of
guest

3 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mary
Mary
8 years ago

I understand that this is a sensitive subject and certainly would assist an employee having difficulty but the amount of ‘leave entitlements’ employees have nowadays in Australia compared to other westernised countries is getting out of hand. Who pays for this and why does the employer have to know how to ‘handle’ these situations? Please consider that an employer is often only one person and they are expected to know and train others on a myriad of things these ‘entitlements’ bring about plus pay for them! Employers are humans too don’t forget. These costs usually cannot be passed on to… Read more »

David
David
8 years ago

Mary, If employers can offshore their business they will, they are not waiting around domestic violence leave to send them on their way. If providing some time off work for to say, a woman who has been bashed by her husband and has to make new living arrangements for herself and children, is going to push the business over the edge, let it be pushed. A rainy week or interest rate increase would have closed it anyway. On an economy wide basis capital has never had a larger share of GDP over labour. If small business wants efficiency and a… Read more »

suzana
suzana
6 years ago

Hi I was part time(maybe still)and my boss said to me I have to be available always 3 days ( Wednesday, Thursday and Friday)and to work only with her and her husband with another dentist other girls.but when my boss was on course or overseas she will give me off ( not pay) I was ok with that and she was paid me only every 3 months 3 days holiday.when someone was sick I was working even Monday or Tuesday sometimes Saturday for same averaged. Now I got AVO On 26/27/11/2017 I was in hospital ( punched in my head… Read more »

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