When considering policy changes, simply meeting the legislative requirements here is not all you can do to foster a healthier, more supportive workplace environment in regard to the issue of domestic violence.
EFFECTIVE DATE: 1 APRIL 2019
Employees (employed for longer than 6 months) affected by domestic violence will be able to take up to 10 days’ Domestic Violence Leave in any 12-month period. This includes perpetrators if they are motivated to change. Leave must be requested in writing.
• Employers may request proof of domestic violence.
• There are no exemptions for small employers.
• The Act explicitly prohibits employers from discriminating against staff affected by domestic violence.
• The definition of domestic violence must be clear in the workplace. Abuse can be physical and/or emotional and can include coercive/controlling behaviour, financial control, intimidation, and harassment. It most often manifests in a pattern of controlling behaviours, though each of those behaviours may not appear abusive in isolation.
• The Act covers behaviour in any intimate relationship, family relationship, or relationship between people who live together, including flatmates.
• Employees affected may request temporary flexible working arrangements for up to 2 months. These could include changing work location/hours, changing work contact details, and ensuring the employee is safe getting to/from work.
• Companies must appoint ‘first responders’ – trustworthy, empathetic staff who are not managers – for affected staff to confide in and seek support from as they navigate the issue. For employers with fewer than 200 staff, there must be a minimum of three ‘first responders’ in place.
• Employers must set up ongoing awareness and education campaigns to ensure all staff, including leadership, have at least a basic understanding of domestic violence issues and HR policy, and know where to seek help, both internally and from community specialists.
WHAT EMPLOYERS NEED TO DO:
• Update employment contracts with:
- Removal of discriminatory labels or language related to domestic violence
- Clear definitions of all kinds of domestic violence (not just physical)
- Clauses in the Leave and Absence policy regarding paid Domestic Leave period
- Clarification of what proof is expected from those affected
- Clarification of which resources, support, and flexible working arrangement options are available to staff.
• Appoint and train ‘first responders. Managers should also be trained to effectively support and manage affected staff.
• Create and implement a workplace-wide education campaign on domestic violence, related policy, and all support systems.
• Consider whether it would be more socially responsible to provide support further than the minimum legislative requirements.