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Family and Domestic Violence a Community Issue
The 2021-22 Australian Government Budget announcement included a renewed focus on family and domestic violence issues in Australia. The Federal Government has announced a one-off payment of $5,000, which will be available to women escaping violent relationships, as a two-year trial to support victims of family and domestic violence and provide an initial escape from financial stress caused by it.
The support includes:
- financial assistance of up to $1,500 in cash, and
- other payments to go towards rental bonds, school fees, and other essential goods and services to set up a safe home.
Although the Federal Government has been focused on the safety of women, Fair Work Australia have applied broader terminology within the Fair Work Act since 2018, paving the way for all employees to have access to support in circumstances of family and domestic violence.
Although not a direct workplace issue, businesses play a vital role in providing support and assistance to their employees suffering from family and domestic violence.
What is family and domestic violence?
Family and domestic violence as defined in the Fair Work Act 2009 is:
violent, threatening, or other abusive behavior by an employee’s close relative that seeks to coerce or control the employee or cause them harm or fear.
A close relative is defined as an employee’s spouse or former spouse, de facto partner or former de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling. Or a person related to the employee according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules.
Impact to Business
Though family and domestic violence is still considered the employees issue, often meaning the company should not interfere, the occurrence of family and domestic violence is really a social issue and realistically may impact on business operations.
Family and domestic violence can affect workplaces in several ways:
- It can be considered a workplace health and safety issue. If a perpetrator harasses or stalks a person at their workplace, it can put the employee and their co-workers in danger.
- Workplaces can be a place of refuge for employees. Often employees experiencing family or domestic violence rely on their workplaces to be a safe place to escape violence and a crucial source of social and economic support.
- It can lead to workplace productivity issues. Employees experiencing family or domestic violence might be more likely to take unplanned days off, arrive late or finish early. When they are at work, they might also be less effective or productive in their role.
Legislated Business Support
Under the Fair Work Act, employees dealing with the impact of family and domestic violence can:
- Take up to 5 days unpaid family and domestic violence leave per annum, as set by the National Employment Standards (NES).
- request flexible working arrangements, where an employee has worked with the same employer continuously for at least 12 months.
- Use annual leave or take paid or unpaid personal leave, where eligibility criteria is met.
Employees may take family and domestic leave if they need to do something to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence, and it can only be done during the employees normal working hours. This may include:
- making arrangements for their safety, or safety of a close relative (including relocation);
- attending court hearings; or
- accessing police services.
An employer can ask for evidence to support an employee’s request, such as documents issued by the police, documents issued by a court, family violence support service documents, or a statutory declaration.
The employer may receive sensitive information about the employee’s situation when employees apply for leave. Employers must pay attention to employees’ privacy information while dealing with and processing family and domestic violence leave. Employees should be assured that all information will be treated confidentially and securely, to the extent possible and as required by law.
Additional information has been provided by Fair Work in the Employer Guide to Family and Domestic Violence.
Additional Business Support
- Addressing matters related to family and domestic violence
- Supporting employees experiencing family and domestic violence
- Displaying workplace safety information prominently within the workplace
- Regularly including safety information in meetings and employee newsletters.
General Support Services
People experiencing family and domestic violence can seek counseling and support from the following providers.
1800 737 732
Australia’s national telephone and online counselling and referral service assisting people experiencing or who have experienced sexual assault or family and domestic violence.
Men’s Domestic Violence Helpline
1800 000 599
Provides support for men who are experiencing family and domestic violence in Western Australia.
1300 789 978
24/7 support for men and boys dealing with family and relationship difficulties. Also an amazing resource to support healthy relationships and provide guidance through fatherhood.
Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline
1800 007 339
Provides support for women, with or without children, who are experiencing family and domestic violence in Western Australia (including referrals to women’s refuges).
1800 199 008
Provides Western Australia’s after-hours response to reported concerns for a child’s safety and wellbeing and information and referrals for people experiencing crisis.
If you need assistance reviewing or implementing an educational and support framework for managing family and domestic violence within your workplace, please contact us at Catalyst Central … email@example.com