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Information for employees affected by DOMESTIC and FAMILY VIOLENCE

What is Domestic and Family Violence?

Domestic and family violence (DFV), sometimes referred to as family violence or intimate partner violence, has been defined to include a range of behaviours and can occur within any form of relationship, towards any person, at any time. Please see important safety planning information further down this page.

There are many types of abuse and violence that are defined as DFV including:

  • Physical eg. Causing physical injury
  • Sexual eg. Coercing or forcing sexual activity
  • Emotional eg. Undermining victim’s self esteem
  • Psychological eg. Threats against children
  • Economic abuse eg. Control of finances
  • Restricting/controlling the victim’s movements or freedom
  • Any other threatening, coercing or controlling behaviour, which causes the victim to fear their own safety or wellbeing or that of someone else

All of these are abuse. You do not have to be physically harmed to be suffering from DFV.

Is Domestic Violence a Workplace Issue?

Yes. DFV  can impact on you at work in different ways. Some of the things women have told us include:

  • being prevented or delayed from getting to work causing absence or late arrival
  • crying or feeling anxious, preoccupied, distracted or distressed at work
  • being worried or preoccupied about your safety and the safety of your children/family
  • being interrupted, harassed or intimidated at work either by phone, SMS, email or face to face
  • receiving threats to your safety or about your children’s safety while at work
  • covering up for what is or has been happening
  • difficulty managing your full workload
  • being afraid to talk about this at work or
  • being questioned or performance managed due to coming in late or not getting your job done
Experiencing the affects of DFV at work can be stressful, upsetting and distracting. It can make it hard to perform your duties and can also be a workplace safety risk. Employers are increasingly acknowledging the fact that DFV is a workplace issue; and the economic costs of domestic violence including absenteeism, reduced performance and staff turnover.

Remember:

  • Domestic violence is about power and control
  • You can break the cycle by seeking support to address the abuse
  • Getting a protection order with help from police is one way to do this
  • It is not your responsibility to stop the violence, perpetrators are responsible for the violence
  • What you can do is access support to help keep you safer while you seek help to address the abuse

How it helps you at work to disclose the DFV

Telling your workplace may seem embarrassing or confronting, but it is something to consider because:

  • If you are late or absent from work or your work performance suffers, your workplace will be aware of the reason and you are less likely to face warnings, disciplinary or adverse action. If this does occur you have to your advantage that you informed the workplace of the DFV. There is support for you: contact DV Work Aware or your Union
  • If you raise the issue the workplace can take steps to help keep you safer and limit opportunities for the perpetrator to harass you
  • Being upfront about your situation may make it easier if the abusive person tries to cause trouble for you at work
  • You have rights at work and leave you can access when you are suffering the affects of DFV and tell your workplace. Jump to workplace Leave rights

To access your DFV rights and protections at work you need to tell your workplace that the DFV is occurring. You do not have to tell them any personal details.

Remember that domestic violence is not your fault – it is the perpetrator, not you, who is responsible – and you should never feel ashamed.

You have a right to feel safe at home and safe at work.

Staying Safe at Work

Workplaces have a duty to ensure your health and safety as an employee.

You have a right to ask your workplace for help if you’re concerned about your safety at work; in fact workers also have a duty to take reasonable care to protect their own safety, which can include asking your workplace for help.

Consider talking to your workplace about what it can do to assist you to be safe and keep doing your job.

Check your workplace health and safety policies; your workplace may even have a policy on workplace violence or harassment. Ask your occupational, health and safety officer, human resources person or manager for the policies if you can’t find them.

Ask your workplace how they can help you with a safety plan. Going through a safety planning process can help a person experiencing DFV to identify and recognise their safety needs and helps to plan for emergencies or times of increased danger. Safety planning at work should not only consider physical safety of employees but also the emotional and or psychological safety.

Some examples of how your workplace can help to increase safety:

  • Having someone walk you to your car or transport when you leave work and/or providing safe parking in secure premises
  • Asking your workplace to notify relevant staff not to tell anyone private information about your location or movements
  • Making sure you’re not left alone at a work location with public access
  • With your consent, provide a photo and details of the abusive person to colleagues, so that they can identify them and call the police if necessary
  • Diverting or change of contact details for phone calls and/or emails
  • Recording capabilities for phone calls
  • Your workplace being protected in any protection orders made by police for you preventing abuse by the perpetrator, such as an DVO. Police can help you with this
  • Organise earnings or a percentage of earnings to go to a separate bank account which only you can access
  • Allow changes in work patterns including hours and/or location of work or duties which prevent you from being accessible to the public (also see Right to Request Flexible Working Arrangements)

Additional resources for safety planning for employees experiencing DFV: 

Making a Safety Plan 

Do I need to tell my work about what is happening?

If you disclose your situation to your workplace, you only need to inform them about things that directly affect or impact on your work. This includes anything that could pose a workplace safety risk.

Is the person who is abusing you:

  • Constantly calling, emailing or texting you at work?
  • Following you to or from work?
  • Making threats to harm you or your co-workers?
  • Threatening to contact your work and tell your boss embarrassing personal information and/or make you lose your job?
  • Threatening to harm your public reputation (eg on the internet or social media such as Facebook)?
  • Coming into or hanging around your workplace to intimidate you?

If so, you should tell your workplace.

Leaving DFV: Time off and temporary safety measures

Consider whether you need to ask your workplace for the following, which will particularly help when you are leaving or have left the abusive person:

  • Time off to go to court, arrange accommodation or attend appointments with support services, your child’s school or your bank.
  • Your work to organise temporary safety measures such as:
    • changes to your working times, patterns or location
    • change of duties to a role which does not expose you to the public
    • your pay to go into a separate bank account that only you can access
    • Your workplace can be named if you are seeking a court order or DV Protection Order that restricts the perpetrators contact with you. Each state has different terminology but this link provides further information about Protection Orders.

Attitudes to domestic and family violence vary: many workplaces are supportive, providing paid leave and flexible working arrangements. If paid leave is not available your workplace may be able to assist in other or non-financial ways.

Can I take leave to deal with domestic violence issues?

Yes, you can.

Exactly what leave you can take and how much leave you can take depends on where you work and what is in your contract of employment.

Many employees (almost two million) have access to paid leave entitlements through their enterprise agreement. This is an agreement made between employees and the employer about conditions of employment. Your employer should provide you with a copy of this agreement if one exists in your workplace.

You can ask for unpaid leave but also to access other kinds of paid leave:

Personal/Carer’s and Compassionate Leave

All workers in the private sector in Australia who are covered by the Fair Work Act have the right to take Personal/Carer’s and compassionate leave under the National Employment Standards (NES) and may do so for health issues related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or for issues related to being the carer of a person who has health issues as a result of experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault.

Under the NES, all permanent employees are entitled to:

  • 10 days of paid personal/carer’s leave per year
  • a further 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion if all paid leave has been used up, and
  • 2 days of paid compassionate leave per occasion

Under the NES, casuals are entitled to:     

  • 2 days of unpaid carer’s leave per occasion, and
  • 2 days of unpaid compassionate leave per occasion

Personal/carer’s leave can be taken if:

  • you are not fit to work because of personal illness or injury, or
  • you need to provide care or support for a member of your immediate family or household due to personal illness or injury, or an unexpected emergency. The definition of immediate family includes your spouse, de facto partner, child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling, and your spouse or de facto partner’s child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling

Compassionate leave can be taken if a member of your immediate family or household dies or has an illness or injury that poses a serious threat to their life.

Annual Leave

Under the NES, permanent full-time workers are entitled to 4 weeks of paid annual leave each year, and permanent part-time workers are entitled to this on a pro-rata basis. Some shift workers are entitled to 1 extra week of annual leave each year. An employer may offer more than 4 weeks paid annual leave. For example Northern Territory Government employees have an entitlement of 6 weeks annual leave per year.

Your employer cannot unreasonably refuse your request for annual leave.

Casual employees

Casual employees are not entitled to paid annual leave under the NES but you may be entitled to leave without pay. Check with your employer, your union or DV Work Aware.

Fixed term contract workers

Fixed term contract employees are generally entitled to annual leave. Usually the allocation of leave is estimated at a pro-rata basis. For example if you are employed on a fixed contract for 6 months, you would be entitled to 2 weeks annual leave (rather than 4 weeks which is the full annual entitlement under the NES).

Public Sector Workers

In different states, public sector workers (including state and local government workers may have different entitlements from national system workers. These should be available on your workplace intranet if you search form domestic and family violence entitlements.

In Queensland see the Queensland Government’s information for Domestic and Family Violence page.

Any questions or issues call for help: DV Work Aware or your Union.

Can I request flexible working arrangements because of domestic violence?

You have the Right to Request Flexible Working Arrangements if you have 12 months continuous service with the employer, and, if you are a casual, you have an expectation of ongoing employment on a regular and systematic basis.

You can make the request if you are experiencing domestic or family violence or if you are the carer of somebody who is experiencing domestic or family violence.

How to request flexible working arrangements

To make the request for flexible working arrangements you must make the request in writing and include what change you are wanting and why.

Here are some examples of what you can ask for:

  • changes in work patterns for safety reasons: eg patterns of working hours and/or location of work
  • transfer to an alternative working location either permanently or as a temporary safety measure
  • change in duties to remove you from public access (please note removal from public access is difficult in some workplaces, eg retail so while you can ask for this the employer may have grounds to refuse)
  • flexibility in working hours in amount of hours worked and rostering to allow you to attend matters related to the DFV and leaving the abuser, for example: court appearances, finding safe accommodation, school appointments or transfers, counselling, doctors appointments

Fact: If you have children of school age or younger and are affected by DFV you have the right, under section 65 of the Fair Work Act (2009) to Request Flexible Working Arrangements on the grounds of both the DFV and your role as a parent.

Visit the Fair Work site to read more on:

  • who is entitled to request flexible working arrangements
  • for what reason
  • employer’s obligations to consider them and reasons an employer can give to refuse

In your proposal consider and include any benefits to the employer, for example:

  • Workplace health and safety for yourself, colleagues and the workplace
  • Continuity in the workplace and cost saving on unnecessary staff turnover when you are able to keep your job despite suffering the DFV; which you wish to do as you are committed to the organisation and your role
  • That you respect your employer as a leader in their field; and in providing support through this DFV workplace provision they are furthering their standing and reputation as an industry leading best practice organisation

Here is a template on how to write a flexible working arrangement request by the Fair Work Ombudsman to your employer.

What happens next

Your employer must give you a written response within 21 days, stating whether the request is granted or refused, and if refused, provide their reasons.

You should be able to clearly understand why your request is rejected. The employer cannot just give a refusal without reasons.

A request can only be refused on reasonable business grounds which may include the effect on the workplace, including the financial impact and the impact on efficiency, productivity and customer service; the inability to organise work among existing staff; and the inability to recruit a replacement employee or the practicality or otherwise of the arrangements that may need to be put in place to accommodate the request.

Help if your request is refused

If you are wanting to challenge the rejection of your flexible working arrangement request you can seek advice through:

I’d like my workplace to support domestic violence leave. What can I do?

DV Work Aware can assist you with resources and advice about your rights at work if you or a colleague are experiencing DFV. The types of information we can help you with are:

  • Domestic Violence Policy
  • Information sheets – please look on our website
  • Training regarding domestic violence in the workplace
  • Support and advice around your workplace rights

Where can I get more help?

 

If you are concerned or uncertain about raising the issue of DFV at work it’s best to get expert advice before you approach your workplace. If you are a Union member you can contact the union or see contacts below.

Queensland – DV Work Aware

P: 1800 621 458
M: 0424 699 708

Northern Territory – Working Women’s Centre

P: 1800 817 055

South Australia – Working Women’s Centre

P: 1800 652 697

1800 RESPECT

1800 737 732
(Australia) 24 hours, 7 days a week

Kids Helpline

1800 551 800
24 hours, 7 days a week

Union members can contact their union for support

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