Domestic Violence and the Workplace

Domestic and family violence (DFV) impact heavily on the workplace resulting in high costs for workers, employers and society. At work this can manifest as lost time due to absenteeism, loss of productivity, and significant workplace health and safety issues.

In Australia there has been increasing recognition of and efforts to address the impact of domestic violence on women in paid work. This has resulted in an increasing number of domestic violence clauses in awards & collective agreements that provide paid time off and other workplace protections. First negotiated in 2010, by March 2016 1234 agreements contained a DFV clause, covering 1,004,720 workers. All but one government (WA) has extended DFV protections to their public servants. The ACTU has a case before the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for 10 days paid DFV leave to be included in modern awards.

The WWRG is engaged in policy work in this area to progress the rights of those experiencing domestic violence at work through its Research Affiliate Ludo McFerran. Ludo is the leading Australian authority on this issue and has led the development of Australia’s innovative policies and practices in partnership with the ACTU and progressive employers. Ludo monitors the quality of DFV clauses and will appear before the FWC as an expert witness for the matter of paid DFV leave. The WWRG is a member of the international DV at Work Network and Ludo will represent the WWRG at the ILO Expert Group Meeting discussions later this year of a gendered violence based international standard that includes domestic violence.


How has domestic violence as a workplace issue developed?

Recognition that domestic and family violence impact heavily on the workplace has increased since 2009. To understand what its impacts are and why an understanding of this is increasing, as well as Australia’s leading role in promoting growing awareness of this issue internationally, read the presentation by Ludo McFerran on Has collective bargaining domestic violence worked? and watch Ludo discuss this issue in a webinar for HRDaily to which HRDaily has very generously provided the WWRG with access.

In Australia it has been possible since 2013 to request flexible working arrangements form your employer if you are experiencing domestic violence or supporting a family member who is doing so. See for an outline of such rights, the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Australian Human Rights Commission: Domestic Violence – a workplace issue, a discrimination issue

Union & employer action on domestic violence as a workplace issue

Unions in Australia began to recognise the impact of domestic violence at work and the need to protect the safety and provide job protection of those experiencing domestic violence from 2009. Many employers of different sizes have since joined in supporting rights for employees experiencing domestic violence.

Below are outlined the actions taken by unions and employers for example in progressing the right to dedicated paid domestic violence leave.


The ACTU has promoted this issue amongst its affiliated unions and has a dedicated webpage.

The ACTU website contains:

  • the ACTU model family and domestic violence leave clause
  • Implementation of DV clauses from an employer's perspective - research findings
  • the 2016 ACTU submission to the Fair Work Act Commission for award provision for paid domestic violence leave in the 4 yearly review of modern awards
Shop, Distributive & Allied Employees' Association. SA & NT

The SDA offers help to its members who are employees experiencing domestic violence and those members who are supporting a family member experiencing such violence.

The Male Champions of Change

The Male Champions of Change comprise 30 male Chief Executive Officers, federal government department heads and non-executive directors. They understand domestic violence is a workplace issue on which employers should act to assist their employees. They recommend employers ‘Provide additional paid leave to employees experiencing violence’ and note ‘10 days paid leave [for employees experiencing domestic violence] appears to be a developing norm’ see p 12 ‘Playing our part: Workplace Responses to Domestic and Family Violence’.