Supporting employees through family and domestic violence

As part of the National Employment Standards, employees are now entitled to take up to five days of unpaid leave each year when they are experiencing or dealing with the effects of family and domestic violence. Employees who are full time, part time or even casual can claim this entitlement.

What is family and domestic violence?

Family and domestic violence is defined in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) as violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s close relative, such as a spouse, ex-spouse, child or grandparent, that seeks to coerce or control the employee and causes the employee harm or to be fearful.

When can an employee take family and domestic violence leave?

An employee may take family and domestic violence leave when they are experiencing family and domestic violence and need to deal with the impacts of family and domestic violence. For example, an employee may need to take a day off work to attend a court hearing to obtain a family violence intervention order. Under the National Employment Standards, an employee can now do this by applying for family and domestic violence leave.

Unlike annual leave and personal leave, family and domestic violence leave does not accrue pro-rata nor does it accumulate from year to year. Rather, on the commencement of each 12-month period of employment, the employee is entitled to five days of unpaid family and domestic violence leave.

While some employers have decided to make this entitlement a paid one, this is not required under the National Employment Standards.

As is the case with personal leave, the employee must give notice to the employer of their intention to take family and domestic violence leave. The employee is also required to provide evidence that the reason for the leave is genuine if the employer requests it. The employer has an obligation to ensure the confidentiality of any notice or evidence provided by the employee. Employees who fail to comply with the notice and evidence requirements can expose themselves to disciplinary action.

What should I do as an employer?

Employers should familiarise themselves and their employees with this new entitlement. They should also update any relevant policies and circulate these to employees.

If you would like any advice on family and domestic violence leave or require assistance updating any relevant policies, please contact our workplace relations accredited specialist, James Remington.

Support services

If you or anyone you know is experiencing family and domestic violence, the following services may be able to assist:

• Safe steps family violence response centre: 1800 015 188
• Lifeline: 13 11 14

Author: James Remington

Published: 26 November 2019


The information in this article is general in nature and is not to be relied upon as legal advice. As always, we recommend you seek thorough legal advice to consider your own circumstances and determine whether the information contained in this article is applicable to you.  This article is current as at the date of publishing but will not be updated as circumstances change.