Unions and advocates are calling on the next federal government to give all workers access to 10 days’ paid and family violence leave, after the Fair Work Commission’s landmark in-principle decision on the issue.
- The Fair Work Commission has given support to 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave for workers on awards
- The decision applies to full-time and part-time workers
- Unions and advocates want entitlements extended to employees covered by the National Employment Standard and casuals
The Fair Work Commission gave its in-principle support to vary the awards for around 2.3 million workers to include annual entitlements of 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence (FDV) leave.
“Paid FDV leave provides significant assistance to those experiencing FDV,” the full bench of the commission concluded in its historic decision handed down on Monday.
“Such leave helps individuals to maintain their economic security; to access relevant services, and to safely exit to a life free from violence.”
Currently, workers are only entitled to five days of unpaid leave.
In a rejection of concerns put forward by business groups, the commission said take-up of the 10 days’ paid FDV leave entitlement would likely be low, “which suggests that such costs are unlikely to be substantial”.
“Employers are already paying the cost of FDV – through increased absenteeism and lost productivity. Paid FDV leave will assist in reducing that cost,” the FWC said.
The provisional decision applies to full-time and part-time employees.
But the FWC rejected the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ push for paid FDV leave to apply to casuals.
That’s despite the FWC outlining in its decision that women who experience family and domestic violence have a more disrupted work history 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-paid and insecure work,” Women’s Legal Service New South Wales chief executive Helen Campbell said.
“We know that financial security is very important to contributing to a pathway to safety.”
Dr Kate Seymour, senior lecturer in Social Work at Flinders University, said it was a critical gap.
“Increasingly, work is insecure and that has implications across the board,” she said.
“As significant as Fair Work’s decision is as a recognition of the scale of family and domestic violence, the hope is 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 the 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 safety,” ACTU president Michele O’Neill said.
“The difference between this entitlement being in the award system and the NES cannot be overstated. Failing to include it in the NES would deny access to millions of working people.”
Major parties back paid leave but policy details unclear
Labor has previously said it supported 10 days’ paid leave but did not meet the ABC’s deadline to provide further details on the party’s policy.
The Coalition has previously voted against Labor’s push in the Senate to include 10 days’ paid leave because it said the Fair Work Commission was looking at the matter.
In a statement, a spokesman for Industrial Relations Minister Michaelia Cash welcomed the FWC’s decision.
“We will consult with relevant stakeholders, especially family and domestic violence advocacy groups and small business employers, on its implications,” the statement said.
“If re-elected, we will make a submission to the Fair Work Commission in accordance with the process set out by the Fair Work Commission.”
Many major employers already offer 10 days of paid leave for people experiencing family and domestic violence.
The Australian Industry Group (AiGroup), which has previously called for paid family and domestic leave to be subsidised by the federal government at the minimum wage, said it would consult with its members and make further submissions to the FWC.
“The commission has made a finding that the cost impact on employers is unlikely to be substantial due to the likely low employee rate of access to the entitlement,” AiGroup chief executive Innes Willox said.
The Master Grocers’ Association (MGA) said requiring employers to pay 10 days of family and domestic violence leave would act as a “disincentive for hiring women”.
“Every time there is another regulation or cost burden, it absolutely gives employers another reason not to employ a staff member,” MGA chief executive Jos de Bruin said.
“There is plenty of existing leave a staff member can access … We can’t afford it.”
The Fair Work Commission will accept further submissions and hand down its draft directions on July 1.
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