Approaching Family & Domestic Violence leave with compassion and clarity
In response to the recent changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 (Clth), the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) 2023 Act modifies how early childhood education and care (ECEC) employers and employees will navigate family and domestic violence (FDV) leave.
These changes are central to ECEC businesses and it is integral for employers and employees to become aware of the reforms taking place. An average of fifteen women a day are hospitalised due family and domestic violence , and with the ECEC workforce being 92% female , the reforms regarding FDV are pertinent to those working in the sector.
The reforms to the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) 2023 Act repeal the previous five days of unpaid FDV leave under the National Employment Standards (NES) which applied to full-time workers only.
Under the new legislation, full-time, part-time and casual employees are entitled to ten days of paid FDV leave. With this new provision comes the dilemma of ensuring all applications for FDV leave are genuine. Navigating the realm of employees who falsify FDV leave requires sensitive and structured strategies.
It is important for employers to recognise that to access FDC leave, an employee can be personally affected by FDV, or an individual known to the employee can be affected. This includes close relatives, a member of an employee’s household, or a current or former intimate partner of the employee.
The classification of a ‘close relative’ is:
- an employee’s:
- spouse or former spouse
- de facto partner or former de facto partner
This article will explore a few of these strategies when weeding out abuses of this much needed leave provision.
Establishing A Family & Domestic Violence Leave Policy
To prevent employees from misusing family and domestic violence leave, ECEC employers should ensure their business has a clear guideline for what family violence is, the amount of leave allowed and how to apply for it.
Establishing a FDV leave policy is an effective method to prevent any potential issues by providing ECEC employees with a central document which provides clarity when applying for FDV, as well as alleviating processes such as answering questions and holding meetings.
A well constructed FDV leave policy requires the following sections:
- A section dedicated to the purpose of the document.
- The entitlements victims of FDV have.
- The procedure required when applying for FDV.
- Necessary contacts.
- Eligibility criteria.
When constructing a FDV policy, it is recommended using a family and domestic violence leave policy (FDV leave) template to ensure consistency and legal compliance.
When applying for FDV leave, ECEC employers have the right to ask for documentation. Ultimately, ECEC employers have the right to use their discretion and not require workers to provide documents. In cases where employers require documentation, possible evidence may include:
- Documents issued by the police.
- Documents issued by a court.
- Family violence support service documents.
- Statutory declaration.
What To Do When Employees Don’t Provide Evidence
Attaining documentation can be difficult to navigate as employees may be reluctant or unable to provide proof of their proximity to violence.
In situations where ECEC employees do not provide evidence of their subjection of violence, employers can implement a few strategies:
- Reasonably extend the deadline to allow employees the chance to gather documentation.
- Expand the range of documentation allowed to be submitted for employees who have not sought legal assistance.
- Communicate with the employee to better understand why obtaining documentation is difficult.
Training and Awareness
Providing training and awareness of FDV to staff promotes a workplace culture where taking advantage of FDV leave is not tolerated. It is important to inform staff of what FDV is, how to support victims/seek support as a victim, and know your rights in the workplace.
ECEC managers can implement sensitivity training that assists employees better understand the emotional and psychological turmoils of FDV. Conducting sensitivity training deters employees from misusing FDV alongside informing staff about the repercussions victims who genuinely need to apply for leave deal with.
A periodic review in relation to businesses is a regular and scheduled examination or assessment of various aspects of a company’s operations, performance, or policies. It involves systematically looking at key areas to identify strengths, weaknesses, and areas that may need improvement, with the goal of ensuring the business continues to operate effectively and in compliance with its objectives and standards. Businesses should be implementing periodic reviews in all aspects of their business’s departments.
Ensuring that a periodic review is conducted in regards to FDV enables businesses to ensure that the leave is being used appropriately. In doing so, this may assist in identifying patterns of misuse and allow for corrective action. As the laws surrounding FDV are evolving with the changing values of society, periodic reviews also promote legal compliance and ensure businesses are adhering to the laws that protect employees subject to abuse.
In conclusion, establishing a comprehensive FDV leave policy, incorporating documentation requirements, training and awareness initiatives, and periodic reviews are crucial steps for ECEC employers. These measures not only deter potential misuse of FDV leave but also ensure that genuine victims receive the necessary support.
Clear policies, sensitivity training, and periodic reviews promote a workplace culture of empathy and accountability. They also help ECEC employers stay compliant with evolving laws and create a safer and more supportive environment for their employees, reinforcing the importance of addressing family and domestic violence in a responsible and compassionate manner.
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