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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 8896

Ms O'DWYER (HigginsMinister for Jobs, Industrial Relations and Women) (09:36): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I rise today to introduce the Fair Work Amendment (Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2018 to provide an entitlement to five days unpaid family and domestic violence leave for all employees under the Fair Work Act.

The bill ensures eight million Australian workers will have access to this leave if they experience family and domestic violence.

The tragic events we have witnessed in Western Australia only this week are a potent reminder of the heavy toll taken by violence on Australian families.

Again I express my deepest sympathies for all who have been touched by these terrible events.

The scourge of family violence strikes at the heart of our communities and continues to impact far too many Australians.

It causes great pain and anguish to those who experience it, their children and their loved ones. Its debilitating effects ripple out and compound from there.

Too often it threatens workers' ability to hold down a job—to provide for themselves and their families, to participate fully in the workforce and to fulfil their potential.

As Minister for Women, I know that women are significantly more likely to experience family violence and deal with the consequences for their livelihoods and careers.

At a time of record levels of female employment and a record low gender pay gap, this bill will help protect Australian workers at their time of greatest need, and in doing so support their financial security.

It will ensure they can take time to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence and help overcome the obstacles it creates—confident that their job is protected while they do so.

It will provide time to seek support and counselling; to involve the police and authorities; to attend court hearings; or to relocate and get re-established.

This government has a strong commitment to fairness, and this extends to maintaining a genuine and balanced safety net for those in our community who need that support.

By enshrining the leave in the National Employment Standards, all employees covered by the Fair Work Act will be guaranteed the minimum leave entitlement, regardless of whether they are:

full time, part time or casual; or

covered by awards, enterprise agreements or individual arrangements.

And a full five days leave will be available each year, from the anniversary of the date they commenced employment.

Importantly, however, the leave will not be available to individuals who seek to take it as perpetrators of family and domestic violence.

In addition to this bill, the coalition government is taking comprehensive action to address family violence.

We have zero tolerance for violence against women and children, committing well in excess of $300 million to address their safety.

In the most recent federal budget we committed an additional $54 million for women's safety initiatives, including $11.5 million for 1800RESPECT, $6.7 million for DV-alert, $14.2 million for the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to help make cyberspace safe for women, and $22 million to combat elder abuse.

This bill extends the decision of the Fair Work Commission in March 2018 to grant five days' unpaid leave to employees covered by modern awards.

At that time, the coalition government made a commitment to extend the entitlement to up to an additional six million people covered by the Fair Work Act.

This bill delivers on that commitment.

It also ensures a level playing field for employers. Many small businesses employ their staff under a modern award and hence their staff already have access to the leave based on the Fair Work Commission's decision.

This bill will ensure big businesses, which are more likely to employ staff under enterprise agreements and individual arrangements, will also need to provide this minimum leave entitlement.

I know good employers already provide caring and compassionate support to employees who experience family violence.

Enshrining this leave in the National Employment Standards extends a guaranteed entitlement to workers who do not currently have access to such leave.

The Fair Work Commission made its decision to provide five days' unpaid leave after carefully considering extensive evidence and submissions from unions, employers and other interested parties.

The commission indicated it will revisit consideration of this issue in mid-2021.

Providing five days' unpaid family and domestic violence leave for all employees covered by the Fair Work Act is the right step to take now.

I urge all members of this House to support the bill and to pass it quickly, so that up to six million additional workers are guaranteed access to this important, new workplace right without delay.

Debate adjourned.