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On Monday the Fair Work Commission handed down a historic decision entitling over 2.6 million people, employed under modern awards, to 10 days paid domestic violence leave. 

Currently under the national employment standards (which applies to all employees) workers are entitled to just five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave. The Fair Work Commission’s decision is expected to set a precedent for all employed Australians. Some organisations such as Telstra and PricewaterhouseCoopers, are ahead of the field and already offer their employees 10 days of paid domestic violence leave.

New Fair Work Commission entitlements

Angus Thompson reports in this SMH article that the Fair Work Commission could clearly see the merits of paid family domestic violence (FDV) entitlements. The commission wrote that, “family and domestic violence is a ubiquitous and persistent social problem. While men can, and do, experience FDV, such violence disproportionately affects women. It is a gendered phenomenon.”

Thompson spoke with Australian Council of Trade Unions president Michele O’Neil who said “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.” 

The Fair Work Commission’s decision to award paid domestic violence leave has been welcomed by domestic violence support and advocacy groups. Australia’s domestic violence crisis requires strategies for change from multiple avenues. 

In this powerful Kill Your Darlings discussion with Walkley award-winning investigative journalist and stella prize winning author Jess Hill, the devastation wrought by domestic violence is made clear. “On average in Australia, a country of almost 25 million, one woman every week is killed by somebody she has been intimate with. A woman is hospitalised every three hours. It’s estimated that Australian police are called to a domestic abuse incident every two minutes (and it’s estimated that only 20–40 per cent of incidents are reported).”

Employer rights

Victim survivors, unions and most business groups are supportive but not everyone is in favour of paid domestic violence leave for employees. One only needs to read the comment feed of LinkedIn sharing news of this decision to get a sense of it. For instance, one disgruntled man asked, “how is that in any way fair on a company or any employer anywhere around the world? I get violence isn’t tolerated and unacceptable, but why does [an] employer have to take a loss for something that is utterly unrelated to employment?”. The SMH also reported that the Coalition voted against a move by Labor in the Senate to insert 10 days’ paid leave into the Respect@Work legislative changes in September. However, it’s believed that the cost impact for employers would in reality be minimal due to likelihood of a low employee access rate.