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.