How SMEs Can Help Support Staff Facing Family Violence

Is your business ready for the new employer obligations for staff experiencing family or domestic violence?

Most requirements in the Fair Work Amendment (Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Act 2022 became mandatory on February 1, 2023. However, small businesses with less than 15 employees have been given a grace period of six months in which to adjust, with legal obligations starting on August 1, 2023.

Under the new regulations:

  • Full-time, part-time and casual employees are entitled to ten days of paid family and domestic violence leave, in any 12-month period (previously five days of unpaid leave under the Fair Work 2009 Act).
  • The definition of family and domestic violence is extended to include the conduct of a current or former intimate partner of the employee or a member of an employee’s household.
  • The entitlement to equivalent paid leave is likely to be extended when the Violence and Harassment Convention (No. 190) becomes binding in Australia. (Late last year, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese flagged the introduction of this International Labour Organisation initiative to the Australian Parliament).

What does this mean for small businesses?

SMEs are tasked with reviewing their policies and procedures, to ensure they are ready and compliant by August 1.

Now family and domestic violence leave is required to be paid, and a number of policies within the organisation may need to be updated. These include employee leave entitlements, staff assistance programs, and wellness initiatives.

Your payroll team needs to be across how this leave entitlement is managed via payroll. No payslips are to reference Family and Domestic Violence Leave due to confidentiality reasons.

This may seem like a daunting and time-consuming task. Yet expert HR assistance can ease the way, with a range of templates, software, and procedures to help you streamline the process.

Transforming your culture

Adapting to new legislation goes beyond meeting legal obligations. Smart organisations will take a proactive approach, turning a forensic eye on existing business culture.

This means providing safe and respectful workplaces, promoting policies that contribute to equity, providing information and support to staff, and flexibility for staff experiencing violence.

In addition, provide an independent person so employees can feel safe to report abuse, and ensure that you stop perpetrators from using work resources to carry out any abuse.

Although it may appear daunting to know how to support a team member in this situation, SME owners are in a good position to influence culture. It’s generally easier for smaller organisations to forge direct connections with staff.

What can you offer employees?

  • Inclusive and respectful workplace attitudes
  • Confidentiality around sensitive issues
  • Flexible work arrangements
  • Access to helpful resources and self-help tools
  • Referral to support organisations where appropriate
  • Health and wellness programs
  • Team support and inclusion

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 already requires employers to be proactive in stamping out sexual harassment and discrimination.

By taking a firm stance against all forms of workplace bullying and intimidation, you are creating a more positive culture – and priming your workforce to succeed.