Victims of domestic violence can now claim annual leave

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People suffering domestic violence will now be entitled to five days’ unpaid annual leave each year to help them cope.

The Modern Awards will be varied to allow employees access to these five days from August 1, 2018.

Senior Employment Adviser Nicholas Hackenberg from workplace specialist firm Employsure said, “This is the first time the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman are making it a requirement for business owners to have a policy for dealing with domestic violence and supporting victims.

“Employers should always take the necessary steps to ensure staff feel comfortable talking to them about sensitive topics such as domestic violence. They need to reassure their staff that all conversations will be handled appropriately and will be confidential.”

What is family and domestic violence?

Family and domestic violence is defined as violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s family member that seeks to coerce or control the employee, or causes them fear or harm.

Employees can take the leave if they need to deal with the fallout of family and domestic violence, and it’s difficult to do so outside their ordinary work hours.

This entitlement applies to “all employees, including casuals, who are covered by an industry- or occupation-based Award. It does not apply to state-system employees, or employees otherwise not covered by an Award.”

Mr Hackenberg says employers now need to tell their employees about the new entitlement and how to claim it.

“The notice requirements are similar to personal leave requests,” he said. “Employers can set their expectations.

“The best way to do this is to first have an open and relaxed conversation with employees about this leave entitlement and how they want them to approach taking some time off. Then, employers should include it in their policy.”

Men can be victims too

This leave is primarily designed to protect women, says Mr Hackenberg, as women suffer the brunt of domestic violence. But men are often victims too.

“Employers cannot assume men are exempt from domestic violence,” he said. “Especially since statistics show many men suffer, but are afraid or embarrassed to come forward.”