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Union domestic violence leave clause is unfair and unworkable

Hearings commence on Monday in the Fair Work Commission's Family and Domestic Violence Leave Case. The Australian Industry Group (Ai Group) is playing a leading role in representing employers in the Case in opposition to the unions' claim for 10 days of paid domestic violence leave, per employee, per year.

"Ai Group will argue that employer assistance to employees who are subjected to domestic violence in their personal lives should be dealt with at the enterprise level – not in the award safety net," Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the Australian Industry Group said.

"Employers have different capacities to provide support to employees experiencing domestic violence. Many large employers have relevant written policies to assist employee victims. Smaller employers often do not have written policies but they typically adopt a reasonable and compassionate approach when their employees suffer genuine hardships. The unions' 'one-size-fits-all' approach is not appropriate.

"The ACTU's proposed clause is very poorly drafted and would lead to a raft of problems and inequities. The definition of family violence is very vague and the purposes for which leave can be taken are very vague.

"A person who is listed in an employer's casual pool and is only called in to work infrequently would be entitled to 10 days of paid leave from the employer, even if they had not worked for the employer recently. The unions' proposed clause would operate unfairly and unworkably for employers in industries like retail and hospitality where a high proportion of the workforce is engaged on a casual basis.

"Paid domestic violence leave is extremely uncommon internationally. The only country that is known to have paid domestic violence leave at a national level is the Philippines, but the entitlement is not well-known in the country or well-enforced. In its submissions, the ACTU refers to a number of US States that have granted domestic violence leave, but these entitlements are unpaid and typically only apply to larger businesses. A few provinces in Canada have some paid domestic violence leave entitlements, but the entitlements do not exist in most of the country.

"Only a minority of enterprise agreements include domestic violence provisions. These agreements contain a wide variety of different arrangements, leave and non-leave. Most of those that contain leave entitlements contain less than 10 days of leave, with many providing unpaid leave entitlements, or access to existing personal/carer's leave entitlements," Mr Willox said. Hearings in the case have been scheduled between Monday 14 November and Friday 2 December.

Ai Group's submission  

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