Paid family and domestic violence leave on political agenda after Fair Work Commission ruling
Unions and advocates are calling on the next federal government to give all workers access to 10 days of paid and domestic violence leave, following the landmark Fair Work Commission ruling on the issue.
- The Fair Work Commission has backed 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave for rewarded workers
- The decision applies to full-time and part-time workers
- Unions and advocates want rights extended to employees covered by the National Employment Standard and casual workers
The Fair Work Commission has given its principled support for changing rewards for about 2.3 million workers to include annual entitlements to 10 days of paid family and domestic violence (FDV) leave.
“Paid FDV leave provides significant relief to those experiencing FDV,” the full commission concluded in its landmark decision released on Monday.
“This leave helps individuals maintain their economic security, access relevant services, and transition safely to a life free of violence.”
Currently, workers are only entitled to five days of unpaid leave.
In a dismissal of concerns expressed by business groups, the commission said uptake of the 10 days of FDV paid leave would likely be low, “suggesting that these costs are unlikely to be substantial”.
“Employers are already paying for the cost of FDV – due to increased absenteeism and lost productivity. FDV paid leave will help reduce this cost,” the FWC said.
The interim decision applies to full-time and part-time employees.
But the FWC rejected pressure from the Australian Council of Trade Unions for paid FDV leave to apply to casual workers.
This is despite the fact that the FWC pointed out in its ruling that female victims of family and domestic violence have more troubled work histories and were more likely to be employed on a casual or part-time basis than women with no experience of violence. .
Advocates and unions are calling for paid family and domestic violence leave to be extended to all employees, including casuals and contractors.
“Many women are in low-paying and precarious jobs,” said Helen Campbell, chief executive of Women’s Legal Service New South Wales.
“We know that financial security is very important to contribute to a path to security.”
Dr Kate Seymour, senior lecturer in social work at Flinders University, said this was a critical shortcoming.
“Increasingly, work is precarious and that has implications at all levels,” she said.
“As important as Fair Work’s decision is as a recognition of the extent of family and domestic violence, the hope is that it would be extended to more people.”
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has also called on the next Federal Government to extend paid family and domestic violence leave to all workers covered by National Employment Standards (NES).
The NES covers an additional 8.4 million workers.
“Already this year, 18 women have been killed by their current or previous partner. Access to paid family and domestic violence leave saves lives. No worker should ever have to choose between their income and their security,” said ACTU President Michele O’Neill.
“The difference between this right in the reward system and the NES cannot be overstated. Not including it in the NES would deny access to it to millions of workers.”
Major parties reimburse paid leave but policy details unclear
Labor has previously said it backs 10-day paid leave but failed to meet a deadline set by the CBA to provide further details of party policy.
The Coalition previously voted against Labor’s pressure in the Senate to include 10 days of paid leave, as it said the Fair Work Commission was looking into the matter.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash welcomed the FWC’s decision.
“We will consult with relevant stakeholders, in particular family and domestic violence advocacy groups and small business employers, on its implications,” the statement said.
“If re-elected, we will submit a submission to the Fair Work Commission in accordance with the process established by the Fair Work Commission.”
Many large employers already offer 10 days of paid leave to victims of family and domestic violence.
The Australian Industry Group (AiGroup), which has previously called for paid family and household leave to be federally subsidized at minimum wage, said it would consult with its members and make further submissions to the FWC.
“The commission concluded that the cost impact to employers is unlikely to be substantial due to the likely low rate of employee access to this right,” said AiGroup chief executive Innes Willox. .
The Master Grocers’ Association (MGA) said requiring employers to pay 10 days of family and domestic violence leave would have a “chilling effect on the hiring of women”.
“Any time there’s another regulation or another financial burden, it absolutely gives employers another reason not to hire a member of staff,” said MGA chief executive Jos de Bruin.
“There are a lot of leaves that a member of staff can access… We can’t afford that.”
The Fair Work Commission will accept other submissions and deliver its draft guidelines on July 1.
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