Victorian public sector to introduce family violence leave

by Chloe Taylor18 Aug 2015
The Victorian government is set to introduce a policy that will, for the first time, allow tens of thousands of public servants to access family violence leave.

Under a clause to be built into all future enterprise agreements within Victoria’s public sector, workers will be able to apply for the new form of leave.

The changes come in an effort on the government’s behalf to help victims of domestic violence stay in stable employment, according to The Age.

According to Family Violence Prevention Minister Fiona Richardson, the new entitlement will send a clear message that workplaces in the public sector support victims of domestic violence, and that victims do not need to suffer in silence.

“Victims need to attend things like medical appointments and legal proceedings,” she said. “This will give them the support, financial independence and wellbeing that they need during what are extremely difficult and stressful times.”

Negotiations around the number of days’ leave provided by the new clause – which is due to be announced today by the government and Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kate Jenkins – will start in September, when enterprise bargaining is due to begin.

In a submission to Victoria's Royal Commission into Family Violence, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (EOHRC) reportedly argued that all state employees should be entitled to domestic violence leave, which should be categorised as a form of “miscellaneous leave” to protect privacy.

The EOHRC also said that employers should be entitled to request evidence of the employee being a victim of violence, such as medical reports, intervention orders, family law injunctions or statutory declarations.

A warning to HR

The EOHRC warned that there is a risk managers might misunderstand their legal obligations and attempt to detect employees who may be experiencing domestic violence.
This could lead to behaviour including monitoring workers for signs of domestic violence, or questioning staff about their personal situations, both of which would be inappropriate without having been approached by the employee in question.

Another issue that the EOHRC also warned could arise was a lack of confidentiality being maintained by HR teams and managers, which would “put the victim at further risk of harm”.

The Royal Commission heard that difficulty maintaining paid employment is commonplace among victims while they are dealing with the physical and psychological impact of family violence and attempt to handle legal issues.

It was also heard that financial independence through employment is often seen as a stepping stone in the process of escaping from violent relationships, and often provides access to support services such as counselling.

Women’s information service WIRE also sent in a submission to the Royal Commission, which highlighted research which claimed up to 90% of women seeking family violence support also experienced financial abuse, making employment heavily important to victims.

According to WIRE, all employment agreements should include a family violence leave clause.
Related articles:

‘Landmark’ case sees FWC rule in favour of domestic violence victim
Domestic violence leave: addressing violence against women
Domestic violence: What if your employee is a perpetrator?


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