Paid Fam­i­ly and Domes­tic Vio­lence Leave – Amend­ments to the NES under the Fair Work Act

The Albanese Labor Gov­ern­ment has ful­filled a promise made pri­or to the elec­tion to imple­ment a change to employ­ment laws which will assist vic­tims of fam­i­ly and domes­tic violence. 

As a result of this change, which was passed by Fed­er­al Par­lia­ment on 27 Octo­ber 2022, employ­ees will now, under the Nation­al Employ­ment Stan­dards, be enti­tled to 10 days of paid fam­i­ly and domes­tic vio­lence leave in a 12 month peri­od to deal with the impacts of vio­lence suf­fered by them per­pe­trat­ed by a cur­rent or for­mer inti­mate part­ner or a mem­ber of their house­hold. This is an increase from the 5 days of unpaid leave pre­vi­ous­ly avail­able. The expand­ed enti­tle­ment aims to assist those who are unable to leave unsafe vio­lent sit­u­a­tions with­out risk­ing unem­ploy­ment, finan­cial hard­ship or homelessness. 

Unlike most oth­er forms of paid leave, the ben­e­fits of which are only con­ferred upon full-time or part-time employ­ees, employ­ees engaged on a casu­al basis will also be enti­tled to it. This speaks to the aim of the amend­ments, to ensure that vic­tims of fam­i­ly and domes­tic vio­lence will not have to choose between get­ting away from the vio­lence and earn­ing an income. Apply­ing the enti­tle­ment to the approx­i­mate­ly 2.6 mil­lion casu­al employ­ees in Aus­tralia, a sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of whom are finan­cial­ly vul­ner­a­ble, goes a long way to achiev­ing this objec­tive. Fur­ther, the leave will be acces­si­ble in full imme­di­ate­ly from the com­mence­ment of employ­ment and will be paid at the rate employ­ees would have received had they not tak­en leave, not just at base rate of pay. 

To ensure that employ­ers have suf­fi­cient time to make the nec­es­sary adjust­ments and under­stand their oblig­a­tions, there is a tran­si­tion­al peri­od: employ­ees of small busi­ness­es will be enti­tled to take the leave from 1 August 2023, while all oth­er Aus­tralian employ­ees will be able to avail the leave from 1 Feb­ru­ary 2023. Employ­ers will also need to think about ways of effec­tive­ly and sen­si­tive­ly imple­ment­ing access to the enti­tle­ment in their workplaces. 

The change is being her­ald­ed as pro­mot­ing gen­der equal­i­ty and increas­ing wom­en’s eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty. As a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of fam­i­ly and domes­tic vio­lence vic­tims are women, the change aims to mit­i­gate the neg­a­tive impacts on wom­en’s access to work, career pro­gres­sion and finan­cial inde­pen­dence inflict­ed by the scourge of FDV.