Last year, former Vice President, Graeme Watson, issued his minority decision on the future of domestic violence leave in Australia. Now, more than one year on, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) has ruled that all Australian employees covered by modern awards will be entitled to 5 days of unpaid leave if they are affected by family or domestic violence.

In 2017, a Full Bench dismissed a claim by the Australian Council of Trade Union (ACTU) that employees should receive 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave. However, at the time the Full Bench formed a preliminary view that all employees should have access to unpaid family and domestic violence leave.

The Full Bench subsequently confirmed this view in a decision released on 26 March 2018 and ruled that a period of five day’s unpaid leave per annum should be available to all employees dealing with family and domestic violence.

The entitlement will apply to all employees (including casuals) and be available in full at the commencement of each 12 month period. The FWC has decided the 5 days of unpaid leave will not be pro-rated and not accumulated from year to year.

A model term has been drafted to give effect to the Full Bench’s decision and all interested parties have been invited to provide comment before it is introduced. The FWC has further stated that family and domestic violence leave will be examined again in 2021, which will focus on whether paid leave should be introduced into all modern awards.

Following on from this, the Turnbull government has announced their intention to introduce measures that increase the reach of the decision of the Full Bench. The government have revealed that legislation will soon be introduced to extend the unpaid family and domestic leave entitlements to a further six million federal system employees who are not covered by modern awards.

If you have any uncertainty around how these amendments will affect your business, contact our workplace specialists today.