New work change to affect millions of Aussies
A NEW change is coming to Australian workplaces that will affect millions of workers from August 1.
From the first full pay period on or after August 1, 2018, many workers will be able to apply for unpaid family and domestic violence leave.
The new leave entitlement comes after a recent Fair Work Commission decision, and applies to those covered by an industry or occupation award including casual employees.
According to the Commission's website, it will be updating all industry and occupation awards to include a new clause allowing employees to take the new form of leave.
The new unpaid leave will enable workers to take five days off each year.
Under the Commission's definition, "family and domestic violence means 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".
A family member can include: a spouse or former spouse, de facto partner or former de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, a worker's current or former spouse or de facto partner's child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling, or a person related to the worker according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules.
The Commission states that the new leave option will be there to assist those workers who are facing family and domestic violence, and find it "impractical to do so outside their ordinary hours of work".
However, it doesn't apply to workers who are covered by Enterprise awards, State reference public sector awards, enterprise and other registered agreements or those who work award and agreement free.
But some of these workers might still be entitled to other paid or unpaid entitlements in their award that they can access in these circumstances.
Alternatively, an employer may already have a workplace policy in place which allows them to access family and domestic violence leave.
Experts are advising employers and their staff to have open and reassuring discussions about the new leave offering coming into place.
Workplace specialist firm Employsure's Senior Employment Adviser, Nicholas Hackenberg, told News Corp Australia that employers must remind their employees they will consider all the information they receive as confidential.
But they cannot assume men are exempt from domestic violence either.
He said that workers will not have to have an apprehended violence order (AVO) in place before seeking the leave entitlement.
"The law is deliberately flexible to make it accessible," he said.
"Therefore, there is no requirement for an AVO to be in place. However, there are some good ways to validate the request. The evidence can come in a number of forms; such as a police report, court documents, a note from a family violence support service, or a statutory declaration."
Mr Hackenberg said that all requests for this new type of leave should be taken seriously by employers, who may not initially believe their workers are telling the truth.
"In the #metoo era with an increased public awareness of sexual harassment and domestic violence, employers need to recognise that allegations of domestic violence, inappropriate workplace behaviour, sexual harassment in and outside the workplace should be taken very seriously," he said.
"If requests for support are not adequately responded to, they may instead be played out in the media or through litigation against the employer for its lack of support. Rather than refusing the request it is sometimes, in the employer's best interest to allow the employee the time off that they need in order to seek the support they need."
For those workers who need further help, he said they "can seek external support to ensure they receive their rights".
While he acknowledged that there are laws already in Australia that require employers to manage workers facing domestic violence, he described this new leave entitlement as "an additional safety net to protect victims".
For further confidential information, counselling and support, phone 1800 RESPECT.