Millions of Australians now eligible for domestic violence leave

The new entitlement follows a recent decision by Australia's Fair Work Commission.

Australian workers will now be eligible for unpaid family and domestic violence leave – up to five days off each year.

The new entitlement follows a recent decision by Australia's Fair Work Commission.

Casual (ad-hoc and shift) employees will also be able to apply for the new leave. However, some workers covered by existing enterprise agreements will not immediately qualify. The Australian government plans to introduce legislation to cover these workers as well.

The Commission defines family and domestic violence as "threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s family member that seeks to coerce or control the employee or causes them harm or fear".

The definition of family member here is also broad. It could include current or former spouses or partners, children, parents, siblings, grandparents, or grandchildren.

Employees might be required to provide evidence -- such as a police report or court declaration -- that they are taking using the leave under genuine cirsumtance, but this seems to be discretionary to employers. It is likely that such details will be made clearer in any official legislation put through by the Australian government.

The five days are to be made available to employees in full at the start of the working year. 

While Australian men are also victims of domestic violence, statistics suggest that women -- particularly Indigenous Australian women -- are disproportionately affected. Earlier this year, a report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found that in the country, on average, one woman a week and one man a month is killed by a current or former partner.

In nearby New Zealand, lawmakers have recently gone a step further by granting 10 extra days of paid leave to domestic violence victims.


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