The Federal Government’s plan to expand access to unpaid domestic violence leave to millions of workers has been tabled in parliament.

The bill was introduced after the Fair Work Commission’s Model Clause for domestic violence leave was inserted into all Modern Awards on 1 August 2018.

If passed, the legislation will provide access to five days’ unpaid family and domestic violence leave to all federal system employees. This will broaden the scope of those covered by the current entitlement under Modern Awards by amending the National Employment Standards (NES).

Under the proposed new laws:

  • employees will have access to five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave in each one year period (it will not accrue from year to year as contrasted with annual leave or personal leave);
  • the entitlement will apply to all forms of employment, including casual employees;
  • the entitlement will be available in full at the commencement of each one year period; and
  • all employees will have five days’ unpaid leave per year regardless of hours worked.

While the availability of the leave is unlikely to dramatically impact upon existing employment practice, employers should be aware of:

  • obligations of confidentiality regarding the leave;
  • civil penalties which may be imposed through contravention of a domestic violence leave provision in the NES; and
  • taking any action which may be seen as prejudicial action because of an employee accessing or proposing to access the entitlement (this may give rise to a General Protections risk under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)).