Early last year, the Fair Work Commission undertook a review of the existing family and domestic violence framework in our employment laws. This week, the FWC released its provisional view that employees should be entitled to 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave. 

What did the FWC say?

VERY SENSIBLE THINGS

The FWC rightly characterised the significant impact of family and domestic violence not only on individual victims, but their surrounding family and the broader community. The FWC also acknowledged that family and domestic violence is both a cause and a consequence of gender inequality, recognising that women who experience it have a more disrupted work history, are typically on lower incomes, change jobs more frequently, and are more likely to be employed in casual or part-time work. 

Having regard to the prevalence and impact of family and domestic violence, the FWC concluded that it was time for modern awards to extend their minimum safety net entitlements by introducing 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave. 

Do employees have a rightto paid family and domestic violence leave?

NOT YET

The FWC decision was a declaration of intention. The FWC must now go through a consultation process before making any changes. A “model term” will be drafted in the coming months and then the public, including unions and special industry organisations, will be invited to give feedback. 

Will the change apply to all employees?

NO

The FWC’s ability to make these types of changes is limited to modern awards. Therefore, unless the government steps in, the new paid family and domestic violence leave entitlement will only apply to modern award-covered employees. 

What about everyone else?

THE PRESSURE IS ON

Appreciating its own limitations, FWC invited the government (whoever that will be at the end of this week) to clarify whether it has an intention to amend legislation to give all employees access to 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave.

While we don’t have a crystal ball, it is safe to say that if Labor wins, it will pick up the baton and extend the right to everyone. If the Liberals manage to secure a victory, it will have some further explaining to do as to date, they have been resistant to giving meaningful support for employees experiencing family and domestic violence through paid leave.