FWC Ruling for Unpaid Domestic and Family Violence Leave ‘Bittersweet’
10 July 2017 at 8:37 am
Peak bodies for family violence services are calling the Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision to introduce unpaid family and domestic violence leave “bittersweet”.
The FWC decision ruled it “necessary” for 10 days of unpaid leave to be inserted into modern awards as a mandatory entitlement but fell short in ruling that this leave should be paid.
The commission said that while it recognised family and domestic violence was “a significant community issue, and that there needs to be a workplace response to family and domestic violence,” it rejected the application from the Australian Council of Trade Unions for 10 days paid leave.
“We are not satisfied, at this time, that it is necessary to provide 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave to all employees covered by modern awards,” the commission said.
“We have however, formed the preliminary view that all employees should have access to unpaid family and domestic violence leave and in addition we have formed the preliminary view that employees should be able to access personal/carer’s leave for the purpose of taking family and domestic violence leave.”
ACTU president Ged Kearney has hailed the FWC decision as a “win” as the first national family and domestic violence leave in the world.
“Australia will become the first country in the world to have a nationally enshrined right to family and domestic violence leave,” Kearney said.
“The FWC accepted that family and domestic violence is a social and workplace issue with widespread impacts, and that workplace rights must keep pace with community expectations.”
Kearny said while the ACTU was “disappointed” the commission had rejected the ACTU’s application for 10 days paid leave the ruling was a crucial first step.
“While the FWC has not been able to hand down a decision for paid leave at this time, it has left the door open for it in the future and we will fight until it is a workplace right for all,” she said.
“Family and domestic violence leave predominantly impacts women, leading to financial hardship, job insecurity and ultimately safety risks for families and people affected.”
Domestic Violence Victoria CEO Fiona McCormack told Pro Bono News the FWC decision was “bittersweet.”
“What is really positive is we are moving from a mentality where responding to a family violence has been the responsibility of a small group of women support agencies and police to acknowledging the wider community plays a role in protecting and supporting women,” McCormack said.
She said women who had experienced family and domestic violence faced additional stress in trying to get leave to get their affairs in order.
“It’s a small intervention but what it can do is give them a short time out, if they need to relocate, if they need to go to court, if they need move children into new schools. That takes time,” she said.
McCormack said it was “disappointing” the FWC hadn’t supported the application for full leave.
“This isn’t leave that every woman will have to take and even a woman who experiences family violence it’s not like she will be taking leave every year. In terms of the overall cost to businesses I think that needs to be weighted up against the cost of losing employees and the corporate knowledge that is lost when someone loses their job,” she said.
“These are relatively small interventions [that] can make such a difference to the health and wellbeing of women in our community.”