domestic violence australia
A woman wears spiked stilettos as she practises a pole dancing move during an International Women's Day event at a women's-only pole dancing fitness studio called Studio Exclusive, in Sydney March 8, 2014. Reuters/Jason Reed

Aussie workers covered by modern awards can have five days of unpaid leave if they are impacted by family or domestic violence, the Fair Work Commission has ruled. The Commission decided on Monday that allowing every worker under modern agreements five days of unpaid leave is the best course of action to address family violence in the workplace.

These workers will be entitled to unpaid leave if they “need to do something to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence and it is impractical for them to do this outside of their ordinary hours of work.” The Commission decided that a standard of five days leave is a “fair and relevant safety net entitlement.”

Previously, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) recommended some possible models, which include extending 10 days of paid domestic violence leave for all workers. The Commission said it has taken a “cautious regulatory response to this issue.”

Small Business Minister Craig Laundy and Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer both responded to the decision, saying the federal government is going to introduce legislation into Parliament “as soon as possible.” The goal is for all Australian employees to be able to have access to a similar level of entitlement, not only those covered by modern award agreements.

“We want to ensure a consistent safety net for employees covered by the national workplace system, so we will amend the [Fair Work] Act in line with the final model clause to give other federal system employees access to unpaid leave on the same terms,” Laundy said.

Smart Company reports the Fair Work Commission as saying that it held several conferences to consider the best “model term” for a standardised domestic violence leave entitlement over the past year.

In a statement on Tuesday, ACTU secretary Sally McManus said that the decision as it stands will not help workers address cases of family violence. She argued that a “short period” of unpaid leave will not help vulnerable workers.

According to the Commission’s summary of decision, one in four women in the country has experienced family and domestic violence. Domestic and intimate partner homicides represent the highest proportion of any category of homicides here.

The impact of family and domestic violence extends beyond the individual directly affected. Children who are exposed to violence are also affected, not only those who suffer from it. Such violence has a tangible impact on employees.