August 28, 2023 By Jen Perrin

Unpacking the Family & Domestic Violence Leave Entitlements


Let's navigate and bring some clarity about the changes in the Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave fair work amendment. There's no denying it, these changes are significant to employment and workplace relations, and understanding their impact is essential.


Just a short time after their election victory, the Labor Government enacted some substantial industrial relations reforms, most notably in the domain of family and domestic violence leave. The change signifies a shift from five days of unpaid leave to an impressive 10 days of paid leave under the National Employment Standards (NES). A considerable change in policy that brings with it far-reaching implications, even extending access to casual employees.

Key Changes to Family and domestic violence leave

Here are some essential amendments to be aware of:

  • Entitlement & Eligibility: The eligibility for paid family and domestic violence leave expanded, with access provided for casual employees, part time employees and even non-national system employees.

  • Definition of Violence: An expansion of the definition of family and domestic violence now comprises abusive behaviors from a member of an employee's household or a current or former intimate partner.

  • Implementation Timeframe: The new reforms to family and domestic violence leave come into effect on 1st February 2023 (or 1st August 2023 for businesses with fewer than 15 staff).

DV victim concerned about accessing paid leave

Understanding Family and Domestic Violence in the Workplace

Family and domestic violence is a critical issue that deeply impacts individuals in the workplace and, rightfully, warrants our focused attention. It describes behaviors that are violent, threatening, or overtly abusive, committed by known individuals against an employee. The central aims of these behaviors are to coerce, control, and instill fear or harm in the employee.

To be eligible for paid family and domestic violence leave, the perpetrating individual could have different relationships with the employee. They could be a close relative, a member of the employee's household, or a current or former intimate partner.

The term 'close relative' extends to:

  • An employee's spouse or former spouse, de facto partner or former de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.

  • A relation of an employee's current or former spouse or de facto partner's, such as their de facto partner's child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.

  • Someone related to the employee according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules.

Should any of you or your acquaintances be experiencing, or be at risk of experiencing domestic, family, or sexual violence, rest assured there is support available. 1800RESPECT, a national counseling, information, and support service, is a secure helpline that aims to assist those in need. Reach out to them on 1800 737 732 or visit their website at Confidentiality, empathy, and understanding is at the core of their services. You're never alone when facing such challenges—always remember that there are people out there willing and able to help.

Clearing Up Crucial Questions

To provide some clarity, let's delve deeper into your most pressing questions on the new family and domestic violence leave updates:

Evidence Requirement: Can an Employer Asks for Evidence?

It's reasonable and within your right to require confirmation when an employee has suffered domestic violence and must apply for family and domestic violence leave. The kind of evidence that's deemed sufficient for domestic violence leave might include documents issued by police services, court documents, or reports from a family or domestic violence support organization, or even a statutory declaration. The key is to balance this need for confirmation with sensitivity and support, as it can be a challenging time for anyone navigating such circumstances.

Therefore, if an employee applies for family and domestic violence leave but cannot provide suitable evidence, you're authorized to consider them ineligible for the paid leave, as guided by the new regulations.

Entitlement Differences: How Have Leave Entitlements Changed?

There's been a significant shift here. The earlier 'family and domestic violence leave' policy entitled each employee to five days of unpaid leave annually in cases of domestic violence. But the new policy brings a colossal change. It offers all employees, full-time, part-time, and casual, 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave per year. This provision now extends beyond the federal system and into state legislated roles.

This change, although substantial, underscores the importance of supporting our teams beyond business outcomes. Aiding our team during such personal hurdles creates an environment of care and security, fostering loyalty and promoting a positive workplace culture. While the transition might seem daunting, remember, a business's true asset is its people, and providing such support delivers immeasurable returns regarding staff morale and commitment.

How do the domestic leave entitlements accrue?

An employee’s paid leave entitlement is available in full immediately and doesn't accumulate. The domestic violence leave renews on the employee's work anniversary.

Paid family and domestic violence leave is a standalone leave entitlement, which means employees get it separately from other types of leave such as annual or sick and carer's leave.

Do I include a family and domestic violence leave in our contracts?

Absolutely! In fact, most small businesses employment contracts or workplace policies often already provide paid family and domestic violence leave. However, if your policy gives less than the minimum in the National Employment Standards (NES), the NES entitlement of 10 days paid leave will apply. This setups acts as a safety net, ensuring eligible employees get the support they need.

Supporting a friend who has suffered abusive behaviour

The Road Ahead: Planning for Your Business

Every change brings its fair amount of challenge and opportunity. It lies on our shoulders to smoothly navigate these new tides for small business employees. Let us break down the steps you can take to effectively assimilate these changes into your organization:

Nurturing Knowledge: Educate Your Managers

First up, initiating training programs for your management team about the new legislation and leave processes is essential. Think of it as equipping your frontline force with the right tools. Training could come in the form of seminars, online sessions, or resource portals. It ensures your managerial team is well-versed in handling the added responsibilities and can capably support their teams.

Policies Check-up: Review and Update

When laws change, it's a call to review your existing policies, systems, and procedures—much like the periodic health check-up we all need. As proactive leaders, it's our responsibility to undertake a comprehensive review of our policies and align them with the updated guidelines. This step brings assurance that we're compliant and avoids any potential risks down the line.

Clarity and Care: Talk to Your Team

Clear, concise, and compassionate communication is always key to a smooth transition. The announcement of these changes to your entire team needs a human touch—after all, we're handling a delicate topic. Regular briefings, email updates, or shared resources ensure your employees know what to expect and how these changes will impact them.

Records Retention: Track Leaves

Last but not least, we need a system in place that reliably tracks the leaves taken under the new policy. This careful record-keeping both ensures compliance and provides a clear picture of how the changes impact your organization and your employees on a personal level.

If you're a Xero user, you can check out their help guide here on how to process family and domestic violence leave within Xero Payoll.


Wrapping Up

If you need more information, check out the Fair Work Ombudsman website here. Remember, non-compliance with these new paid family and domestic violence leave provisions could lead to substantial penalties. As always, we are here to support you as we navigate these changes together.

Our roles as business leaders go beyond profit margins—it involves cultivating a caring community within our workforce. If you still have concerns or questions regarding the new family and domestic violence leave, we are available to help. Assisting businesses through changes is our area of expertise, and we're committed to supporting you through every step of this journey. Reach out for advice and reassurance—after all, it's what we're here for!

About Author

Jen Perrin

Jen's been around since 2011 and morphed into a bit of a jill-of-all-trades for our Brisbane office. Jen has a Bachelor in Business (Human Resource Management) & is a certified member of the Australian Institute of HR. Jen believes that human capital is an integral part of any business and plays a key role in providing an organisation with a competitive advantage within its industry. People and culture are her jam! Jen can empathise with small business clients that HR compliance, attracting talent, keeping staff engaged and motivated and retaining good employees is a difficult task. If she can remove the stress and anxiety around these components for her clients that’s a win! Outside of the hustle and bustle in the office, Jen is all about the slow and steady life. She enjoys settling into her hammock reading a good thriller or fantasy novel, enjoying the sound of the ocean and sand between her toes. She loves her sports and is a passionate Dragons supporter, during the week she’s off playing netball and taking her pooch Wendell (staffy x kelpie) for a stroll.

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