Family Violence Leave is a leave provision designed to help employees who are victims of family violence stay in paid employment, support them through the process of escaping violence, and secure a safer working environment.
Over 1.6 million Australian workers now have access to paid family violence leave, as part of a union-negotiated workplace agreement.
What is family violence a workplace issue?
Two thirds of women who suffer from family violence are in paid work. Staying in paid work is a critical factor in women maintaining financial independence and escaping family violence.
Many factors impact a family violence victim’s capacity to work, including physical injury, hiding or stealing car keys or transportation money, refusal of partners to show up or care for children, sleep deprivation, being forced out of home, death threats and threats to harm children.
In addition, recent research shows that, among employees who have faced family violence:
about 1 in 5 say the violence continued at the workplace, including abusive phone calls and emails, or the partner physically coming in to work
12% of family violence victims work in the same workplace as their abusive partner
many workers don’t discuss family violence at work for reasons of shame and fear of dismissal
78% believe that workplace entitlements could reduce the impact of family violence in the workplace.
Why should employers pay for Family Violence Leave?
The workplace is an important part of society, and it has a significant role to play in combatting issues like family violence. The trauma experienced by an employee who faces family violence is likely to be lessened if they are able to rely on the support of an understanding and accommodating employer.
From the employer’s perspective, a combination of paid Family Violence Leave and flexible working arrangements also makes good business sense.
White Ribbon Foundation chief executive Libby Davies contends “workplaces benefit from being involved. We’ve seen evidence it improves productivity, reduces absenteeism, improves retention rates and change staff attitudes and behaviours."
What does Family Violence Leave look like in practice?
Much work has been done to encourage the inclusion of family violence clauses in workplace agreements all over Australia, and Victoria is leading the charge.
What else is being done?
The inclusion of Family Violence related clauses in agreements is a comparatively new area of industrial relations, and is rapidly evolving.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions endorses the following 7 basic principles for dealing with family violence issues in the workplace:
dedicated additional paid leave for family violence
confidentiality of employee details assured and respected
workplace safety planning strategies
referral to family violence support services
appropriate training, paid time off for contact persons
employees entitled to family violence leave also able to access flexible work arrangements where appropriate
employees protected against adverse action.