Domestic violence leave to hike costs, says business

The Australian, November 4, 2016:

Employers have warned that ­approval of the union movement’s claim for 10 days’ paid domestic ­violence leave will add hundreds of millions of dollars to their ­labour costs, and potentially allow workers to take up to 20 per cent of the working year off with pay.

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has told the Fair Work Commission the eventual cost to employers of granting just one day of paid domest­ic leave annually will be $205 million a year, as the entitlement spreads from the award system across enterprise agreements.

ACTU president Ged Kearney told The Australian the employer estimates were “pure fantasy” and based on exaggerated and flawed assumptions that 25 per cent of ­female workers and 10 per cent of male employees would seek to ­access paid domestic violence leave annually.

Unions have submitted economic analysis claiming the cost to employers of one day of paid ­domestic violence leave would be about $11.8m per year, based on 2 per cent of female workers and less than 1 per cent of male workers taking the leave each year.

However, employers, unions and workplace academics agreed the entitlement would eventually spread to millions of workers if the commission granted the claim.

University of Adelaide law professor Andrew Stewart said that, in the first instance, the cost of the claim would be borne by small businesses as bigger employers had enterprise agreements that overrode awards.

The ACTU has moved to ­address some employer complaints about its claim, including changes to prevent domestic violence perpetrat­ors inadvertently accessing the entitlement.

Business groups ­insist the claim, which would apply to full-time and part-time employees as well as casuals, is too broad and costly. The Australian Industry Group said the claim, if approved, would allow a casual working one day a week to get an extra 10 days’ paid leave for receiving an abusive text message.

Under the proposed ACTU clause, an employee would be ­entitled to 10 days a year of paid family and domestic violence leave “for the purpose of attending to activities related to the experience of being subjected to family and domestic violence”, ­including but not limited to: attending legal ­proceedings, counselling, and ­appointments with medical, finan­cial or legal professionals. It could also be used by an employee to relocate or make other safety arrangements. When the paid leave was exhausted, an employee would be entitled to a further two days’ unpaid leave.

If required by the employer, an employee would have to provide evidence that would satisfy a “reasonable person” that the leave was for attending the stated activ­ities. Such evidence might include a document issued by the police, a court, a doctor, a district nurse, maternal and child healthcare nurse, a family violence support service, a lawyer or a statutory declara­tion.