Legislation update

Federal Government introduces paid family and domestic violence leave Bill

By Andrew Tobin / 28 July 2022

In this article, Solicitor, John Hickey and Partner, Andrew Tobin discuss the proposed new paid leave entitlement, eligibility criteria to take the leave entitlement, as well as the ‘National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 '.

The Federal Government on 28 July 2022 introduced the Fair Work Amendment (Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2022 (the Bill). The Bill proposes to amend the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) by inserting a non-accumulating entitlement to 10 days' paid family and domestic violence leave each year, into the National Employment Standards (NES), for all employees (including casual and part-time employees). Currently under the NES, employees are entitled to take 5 days' unpaid family and domestic violence leave each year.

To provide time for payroll and other necessary adjustments, the new paid entitlement is proposed to take effect from 1 February 2023 for all non-small business employers (employers with 15 or more employees). Small business employers (employers with fewer than 15 employees) will have until 1 August 2023 to comply with providing the amended NES leave entitlement to their employees.

It is expected that this Bill will be passed through both the Senate and the House of Representatives and become an Act of Parliament later this year.

When will employees be able to take paid family and domestic violence leave?

According to the Bill, employees (including casual and part-time employees) will be able to take paid family and domestic violence leave if they:

  • experience family and domestic violence; and
  • need to do something to deal with the impact of that violence; and
  • it is impractical to deal with that violence outside their ordinary hours of work. 

The FW Act currently defines “family and domestic violence” to mean “violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by a close relative of an employee that seeks to coerce or control the employee or causes the employee harm or to be fearful”. 

The Bill proposes to extend the definition of “family and domestic violence” to include conduct of “a member of an employee’s household, or a current or former intimate partner of an employee”.

Examples of where family and domestic violence leave may be taken by employees include for the purposes of:

  • making arrangements for their safety or the safety of a close relative, such as a dependent child (including relocation);
  • attending urgent court hearings; and
  • accessing police services.

To access this leave entitlement, employees are required to give their employer notice as soon as practicable of the need to take leave, and their expected length of leave.

An employer may ask an employee to provide evidence that would satisfy a reasonable person of their need to take family and domestic violence leave. Examples of reasonable evidence include documents issued by police or the court, family violence support service documents or statutory declarations.

Failure by an employee to comply with their employer’s request to provide reasonable evidence will result in the employee’s ineligibility in taking this paid leave entitlement.

National Plan 2022-2032

In addition to the introduction of the Bill, the Federal Government has announced its intention to release the ‘National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032 ’ in October this year. This National Plan will replace the existing 2010-2022 National Plan which expired in mid-2022.

The National Plan sets out the framework for action by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to reduce violence against women and their children. 

The key priorities of the National Plan are to:

  • reduce violence against women and their children; 
  • increase support for women and their children;
  • improve how governments work together; and
  • create innovative and targeted ways to bring about change.

Key takeaways

Employers must be cognisant of the forthcoming legislative changes proposed by the Bill. Once the ensuing Act comes into operation, employers will need to update their contracts of employment and/or workplace policies to reflect the new 10 days' paid family and domestic violence leave entitlement for all employees.

Employers will also need to ensure that they provide updated Fair Work and Casual Employment Information Statements to new employees (as these documents will be updated to reflect the NES leave entitlement change).

If you require any further information, or for assistance with reviewing existing contracts of employment and workplace policies to ensure that they are legally compliant, please contact our Workplace and Employment team.
 

Authors
Andrew Tobin
Partner
Andrew is a Partner and the head of HopgoodGanim Lawyers’ Workplace and Employment practice.

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