Fair Work Commission’s Vice President Rejects Domestic Violence Leave in Awards
The Fair Work Commission’s vice president Watson has ruled that domestic violence leave should not be included in modern awards.
VP Watson, who leaves the Fair Work Commission tomorrow, handed down his decision on domestic violence leave as part of the four yearly review of modern awards.
The issue of whether the inclusion of domestic violence leave clauses in awards is allowable was first raised on 15 June 2015 by the ACTU. It included submissions from unions, major employer groups such as the Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ACCI) and the Australian Industry Group (Ai Group).
VP Watson considered whether the inclusion of family and domestic violence leave was necessary to achieve “fair and relevant safety net of terms and conditions.”
He accepted that domestic violence was a serious and pervasive social problem. He added that it was “broadly accepted that the problem needs a whole of community response and there can be no single solution to the problems it creates.”
VP Watson commented that employers should be open to assisting victims of domestic and family violence.
However, he ruled that the ACTU claim was of a different nature and “seeks to introduce a form of leave that can be taken without prior approval, and is available in a broad and somewhat uncertain range of circumstances.”
“In my view this approach to the problem of domestic violence runs the risk of undermining the level of trust at the workplace and causing significant uncertainty and cost for employers,” he said.
VP Watson said the new form of leave was available in circumstances where personal/carer’s leave or annual leave was currently available. He said that the leave proposal sought to extend the circumstances for taking leave beyond the circumstances of these forms of leave to make a new form of leave available to a broader class of employees.
“The commission has consistently avoided supplementation of the NES leave standards in awards and has declined to insert additional leave entitlements, including in relation to leave of the nature now proposed,” he said.
VP Watson, who sat as part of a three-member full bench, gave his decision in advance of the other two members. Consequently, the full decision won’t be known until the other members publish their decisions at a later date.
FIAA will continue to update our members on further development as it comes to light.