If an employee’s personal life is difficult, their performance at work will most likely suffer.
Far from the office and well behind closed doors, domestic violence can have a devastating impact on anyone’s ability to function day-to-day, let alone work.
We’ve learned a lot about the incidence and effects of domestic violence in recent years. Lifting the lid on a previously taboo topic has left many shocked and searching for appropriate responses. In some arenas, those responses have been slow to come – it could be argued that workplace law is one of them.
Until August last year, those affected by domestic violence situations had no leave entitlements. The legal expectation was for them to continue to front up for work.
Given what we now know, this seems far too onerous. Accordingly, the Fair Work Commission has stepped in and mandated five days of unpaid leave each year for those affected.
The scope of permissible circumstances is rightly generous and includes:
- Making arrangements for a victim’s safety
- Making arrangements for a family member’s safety
- Accessing police
- Attending court
Practically, there is no notice period as domestic violence incidents aren’t pre-conceived. And the leave entitlements apply equally to all employees covered by an award.
That’s the legal requirement. The bare minimum.
But what else can businesses do to support workers through domestic violence incidents?
Given there is still a powerful stigma preventing people from speaking widely about domestic violence, it’s vital that decision-makers can identify signs and symptoms.
An effective way to better understand and recognise the manifestation of this epidemic in the workplace is to partner with a charity like Australia’s CEO Challenge. Established in 2002, ACEOC trains businesses to deal with domestic violence situations and develop broader workplace policies that eliminate any behavior or activities that may encourage it. ACEOC conducts a number of high-profile outdoor events – including a nocturnal 110km run through Brisbane each May – to raise awareness. Participating in these programs, initiatives and events sends a clear message to staff about how much your business cares about a problem that’s estimated to affect 3 million Australian workers.
Based on these stats, it’s a matter of ‘when’ – not ‘if’ – domestic violence becomes an issue for your business. Is your organisation equipped – both legally and administratively – to handle such a situation? Being a best-practice employer sometimes requires action beyond the office or workshop.
The workplace law team at Tonkin Drysdale Partners has assisted not only businesses in these situations, but also employees. We can provide expert advice on how to address these situations sensitively and responsibly.