Following legislative change by the Albanese Federal Government, almost all members now have improved access to paid family and domestic violence leave (FDL). The only exception is if you work for an employer with 15 or fewer employees; for these members the entitlement takes effect from 1 August 2023.
What are the changes?
The Fair Work Amendment (Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Act 2022 updates the National Employment Standards to:
- increase the annual FDL entitlement to 10 days (up from five)
- change the previously unpaid FDL entitlement to a paid entitlement
- expand the definition of FDL to include violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by a member of an employee’s household, or a current or former intimate partner (in addition to a member of the employee’s immediate family, or a person who is related according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules).
Because it is a National Employment Standard or NES entitlement, it doesn’t matter what (if anything) your contract or EBA says: the NES will override it – to the extent that the NES is more beneficial.
Permanent public sector nurses, midwives and mental health nurses have an entitlement of 20 paid family violence leave days per year; as this is more beneficial than the NES entitlement, the NES entitlement will not override it.
The amount of paid family violence leave in the NES is the same whether you are full-time, part-time or casual. Bank or casual nurses and midwives now have access to the NES entitlement.
This new FDL entitlement is available up front and renews in full at the start of each year of your employment, but does not accumulate from year-to-year.
What can family and domestic violence leave be taken for?
Employees (including part-time and casual employees) can take this paid leave if they need to do something to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence. This could include, for example, the employee:
- making arrangements for their safety, or the safety of a close relative (including relocation)
- attending court hearings
- accessing police services
- attending counselling
- attending appointments with medical, financial or legal professionals.
What if you’re already using other paid leave?
An employee can use paid family and domestic violence leave during a period of paid personal or annual leave. If this happens, the employee is no longer on the other form of paid leave and is taking paid family and domestic violence leave instead.
What notice and evidence requirements are required?
If an employee takes paid family and domestic violence leave, they must let their employer know as soon as possible. This could be after the leave has started.
An employer can ask their employee for evidence to show that the employee needs to do something to deal with family and domestic violence and it’s not practical to do that outside their hours of work. This evidence could include police, court or family violence support service documents.
An employer can only use this information to satisfy themselves that the employee is entitled to family and domestic violence leave, unless:
- the employee consents
- the employer is required to deal with the information by law, or
- it’s necessary to protect the life, health or safety of the employee or another person.
The employer can’t use the information for other purposes, including to take adverse action against the employee.
How to support someone you suspect is experiencing family violence
Knowing or suspecting that a colleague or staff member is being hurt is hard and it can be difficult to know what to do. There are some simple things you can do to help, including listening non-judgmentally, believing them and taking their fears and concerns seriously.
When someone is experiencing violence, they often feel trapped and events can quickly spiral out of control. These feelings can be made worse if you try to force them to do what you think is best. It is very important that people are supported to make their own choices when they are ready.
You may be worried about doing the wrong thing, but it is important to know that it is OK to say something. Many people are glad to have the chance to talk about what they are going through.
If an employee or colleague discloses that they are experiencing family violence, the way you respond is important. Here are some tips.
Being listened to can be an empowering experience for a person who has been abused. Listen with eyes, ears and heart – with empathy and without judging. ‘That must have been very frightening / difficult for you.’
INQUIRE ABOUT NEEDS AND CONCERNS
Assess and respond to your employee’s or colleague’s needs and concerns—emotional, physical, social and practical (e.g. childcare). “What I’m hearing is that at the moment you need support around… ”
Show them that you understand and believe them. Assure them that they are not to blame. “Violence is unacceptable, and you do not deserve to be treated this way.” “It must have been difficult for you to talk about this.” “I’m glad you were able to tell me about this today.”
Ask what the person’s immediate concerns are. “Are you concerned about your safety or the safety of your children or pets?” Assist them to seek help from a more specialised service, or to apply for family violence leave if required. “It must be difficult going through what you have experienced, you have the right to feel safe.”
In an emergency or if is someone is in danger now, call 000 immediately.
Provide support by helping to connect to information, services and social support. “Would you like some support to help you deal with the situation?”
Ways you can help:
- Never blame the person experiencing the violence for what has happened to them. Violence is never justified.
- Don’t make excuses for the person who has hurt them.
- Understand that they may not be ready, or it may not be safe to leave. Don’t try to force them to do what you think is best.
- Remember that family violence is not just physical.
- If possible, you can help in practical ways, with transport, appointments, child minding, or a place to escape to.
You or the person you are supporting can call 1800 RESPECT (phone 1800 737 732) or visit their website for more information and support.
Nurses and midwives can also call the NMHPV for advice and referral to specialist family violence services.
If you are experiencing family and domestic violence, or you suspect or know an employee or colleague is experiencing family and domestic violence, you can visit safehaven.anmfvic.asn.au for more information and resources.