On 26 March 2018 the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission decided to provide 5 days of unpaid leave to all employees experiencing family and domestic violence.

The Unions had fought for 10 days of paid leave however that claim was not supported by the Fair Work Commission.


What is family and domestic violence?

While there is no single generally accepted definition of family and domestic violence, the Fair Work Commission arrived at the following definition:

‘family and domestic violence means violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by a family member of an employee that seek to coerce or control the employee and that causes them harm or to be fearful.’

Who does it affect?

While anyone can experience family and domestic violence, such violence disproportionately affects women.

The effects of family and domestic violence also extend beyond the individual directly affected, and can impact on people’s families, workplaces, and the general community.

Is five days enough?


While research suggests that the ‘typical’ amount of leave taken per incident was between 2 to 3 days, this doesn’t account for the more serious circumstances of family and domestic violence where more leave might be needed.

For example, a person who experiences a single incident of family and domestic violence may need to make alternate living arrangements, change schools for their children, attend the police station for the purpose of obtaining the intervention of law enforcement, go to Court, seek counselling, and look for additional work.

It may not be possible to do all of the above in 5 days, and it is an entirely unrealistic time frame should the person experience a second incident of family and domestic violence in the same year.

Should the leave be paid?


The Fair Work Commission recognised that ‘employees who experience family and domestic violence often face financial difficulties as a result, such as relocation costs or become a sole parent; and may suffer economic harm as a result of disruption to workplace participation.’

Despite this, they have chosen to only extend unpaid leave, which will more than likely compound an employee’s financial difficulties, and create a disincentive to leaving violent and dangerous 

What next?

The Fair Work Commission will continue to consult on the precise working of the entitlement to five days unpaid leave.

Meanwhile, the USU will continue to campaign on allowing employees access to 10 days paid leave for family and domestic violence.

We won’t wait!