Employers are coming under increasing pressure to proactively deal with domestic and family violence issues in the workplace.

This week, Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence published its final report with a comprehensive 227 recommendations, all of which the Premier, Daniel Andrews, has pledged to introduce. These recommendations include:

  • Providing paid domestic violence leave to all public sector employees;
  • Proposing that the Victorian Government encourage the Commonwealth Government to include an entitlement to paid family violence leave in the National Employment Standards (NES); and
  • Implementing best-practice workplace programs in all public sector workplaces.

The Commission has clearly stated that it hopes its recommendations will persuade other employers to follow suit. These sentiments are also echoed by the Fair Work Commission.

Just two weeks ago, the Fair Work Commission questioned whether an unfair dismissal of a lawyer, who was dismissed after attending a Court hearing dealing with domestic violence, would have been handled differently if her employer had a domestic violence workplace policy in place. Commissioner Johns noted the importance of paid domestic and family violence leave in removing the stigma that can attach to victims experiencing family violence. He also acknowledged the growing tendency for employers to have paid domestic and family violence leave policies in place which he said is to be encouraged.

Commissioner John's statements add to the growing recognition that domestic and family violence is a workplace issue. Over a third of major private sector employers now have policies supporting employees experiencing domestic and family violence. Domestic violence clauses are also found in many government agencies' and some private companies' enterprise agreements. These policies and clauses reveal a trend in employers taking proactive approaches to managing the impact of domestic violence in their workforce. Additionally, since 2013, the NES imposes an obligation on employers to not unreasonably refuse requests for flexible working arrangements from employees experiencing family violence.

DLA Piper recently held a seminar on domestic violence management and intervention in the workplace. Our panel members included Telstra and ANZ, and both provided valuable insight into how their businesses are responding to the issue of domestic violence in the workplace and what preventative measures they have in place. You can view the recorded seminar on our YouTube channel.