Legal Obligations vs DVFREE recommendations

New legal requirements for employersFollowing is a high level comparison between employer obligations under the Domestic Violence – Victims Protection Act 2018 and other relevant legislation, and DVFREE recommendations. For more detail about DVFREE recommendations, download the Guidelines for a DVFREE Workplace here.

Legal Requirement
DVFREE Recommendations
10 days paid DOMESTIC VIOLENCE leave per year

Domestic Violence - Victims Protection Act 2018:

  • eligible after 6 months
  • employer may require proof

DVFREE recommends:

  • eligible from start of employment
  • no requirement for proof
Flexible Working

Domestic Violence – Victims Protection Act 2018:

  • for DV related reasons, may request short term flexible work arrangements up to 2 months 
  • must request in writing
  • employer must respond within 10 work days 
  • employer may require proof
  • reasons for non-accommodation of requests limited to set criteria

Employment Relations Act 2000:

  • may request flexible work arrangements (hours, days, or place of work) from first day of employment
  • request may be for temporary change to terms and conditions of employment or a permanent change which may involve changing their employment agreement
  • employer must respond as soon as possible, and not later than one month after receiving the request
  • reasons for non-accommodation of requests limited to set criteria

DVFREE recommends:

  • for DV related reasons, may request flexible work arrangements for any length 
  • may request by talking to a First Responder 
  • employer must respond within 2 working days 
  • no requirement for proof
  • requests to be accommodated if practically possible, for as long as required, especially for safety reasons
  • for employees perpetrating domestic violence who want support to change, offer flexible working to enable attendance of specialist community non-violence programme
No Adverse Treatment

Domestic Violence – Victims Protection Act 2018 amended Human Rights Act 1993:

  • employers may not discriminate against employees or job applicants on basis of believing employee affected by domestic violence

DVFREE recommends:

  • same, stated clearly in staff policy
Workplace Safety

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015:

  • employers must proactively identify risks to (physical and mental) health and safety and do what is reasonably practicable to eliminate or minimise risks.
  • no specific requirement to identify or manage risks relating to staff affected by domestic violence

DVFREE recommends:

  • employers proactively mitigate risks related to staff affected by domestic violence by following DVFREE recommendations for policy, procedures, information for staff, and training.
  • for employees at risk of domestic violence during work, offer/provide comprehensive workplace safety planning
  • consider disciplinary action for employees who perpetrate domestic violence using work time or resources 
  • follow up workplace incidents of domestic violence with offer to support victimised staff
Employee Privacy

Privacy Act 2020:

  • personal information obtained for one purpose shall not be used for any other purpose unless necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to life or health

DVFREE recommends:

  • ensure that employee information about a personal experience of domestic violence is kept private and confidential except when there is a serious threat  to anyone’s safety. When risk is imminent, ring Police on 111 immediately. 
  • Paid domestic violence leave to be recorded in a way that does not specify domestic violence and protects employee privacy
  • Any records relating to an employee’s experience of domestic violence (including related workplace incidents) to be stored securely with access limited to people who need to know

Return to DVFREE home page

Adrienne had worked for a large organisation for many years. She had been physically and emotionally abused by her husband for 20 years. He worked in the same complex, in a different department. She finally decided to leave. She knew about her employer’s domestic violence policy, so she talked to HR about her situation, knowing that she would be supported. HR referred her to the Shine Helpline, and immediately put in place a security plan. Her husband’s boss also instructed him that if he entered her department, he would potentially face instant dismissal. With support from her employer and from Shine, Adrienne managed to leave her husband and stay safe.

Jason worked as a waiter. His boyfriend became increasingly abusive after they moved in together. He beat up Jason on a regular basis, and left bruises where no one could see them. Jason rang Shine’s Helpline for support because his boyfriend was harassing him at work and he was in danger of losing his job. His boyfriend started by texting 20-30 times a day. After a few days, Jason stopped responding to every text, and his boyfriend began ringing 15-20 times a night. 

Other co-workers had to pick up the slack every time he took a call. Jason’s boyfriend occasionally came into the restaurant and sat at the bar keeping an eye on him, and once followed him into the kitchen to loudly accuse him of flirting with another employee. Jason’s boss told him that he needed to get his partner under control or risk losing his job. Jason was too ashamed to tell his boss what was going on at home, and thought his boss would not be supportive even if he told him. Although Shine was able to support Jason to leave his partner, the abuse at his workplace continued and some months later he was fired.

Anna was a highly skilled worker who got on well with her patients and colleagues, where she’d worked for 15 years. She began dating and moved in with a co-worker who soon became jealous, possessive and violent. Her boyfriend checked up on her at work throughout the day. She began coming in late or not at all. She was often preoccupied and forgetful. She was too ashamed to tell anyone what was going on, and feared she wouldn’t be believed. Her boss told her he didn’t want to lose her experience, but if she couldn’t improve her performance he would have to take action. This caused Anna greater stress and anxiety.

Eventually Anna was injured by her boyfriend, ended up in hospital and was referred to Shine. Shine helped Anna leave her boyfriend safely, but she felt terrified at work, never knowing when he would appear. Shine eventually helped Anne to relocate, which meant leaving her job. If she had been supported by her employer and kept safe at work, Anna may have found the strength to leave sooner, avoid injuries and an enormous amount of stress and trauma. She may have been able to keep her job and the organisation would have kept a highly skilled and experienced worker.

The manager of retail business got in touch with Shine to discuss his concerns that a valued employee was being abused and he didn’t know how to help. With coaching from Shine, he raised the issue with Donna, and offered to support her. He brought Donna to Shine where she shared her fear of leaving her partner because of his threats to kill her. Shine and her boss helped Donna put in place a number of safety strategies, including getting a Protection Order, serving her partner with a Trespass Notice for the workplace, moving her temporarily from front desk duties, making a photo of her partner available to her workmates so they could warn her if he came to the office, and accompanying her to and from her car.

The partner was arrested and released on bail. He was later arrested again, once for breaching the Trespass Notice when he was observed by a staff member. He finally left her alone after finding that she was no longer vulnerable to his abuse. Donna is still in the job that she loves, and her boss has a staff member who is more loyal and committed than ever.

Janine’s relationship was great for two years. Then he went away on an exciting work project, began drinking and calling her all hours of the night. He was bipolar and still in a manic phase when he returned and began abusing her. One day he beat her badly. She rang police, he was arrested, and Shine began supporting her. She was in a senior work role and parenting two teenagers. In the months before the court hearing, he kept contacting her. He’d say things from ‘I love you, I’m so sorry’ to ‘It’s your fault I lost my son and I’ll kill myself.’ He attempted suicide three times. Police said he would likely go to prison. She felt guilty and wanted to withdraw charges.

Janine told her managing director what was happening. “If my partner was dying of cancer, there would have been some understanding. But my managers were uncomfortable with what I was going through and didn’t want to know. When my ex died in an accident, they couldn’t understand why I was grieving.” Suffering from depression, she went to three EAP sessions, but talking to Shine was more helpful. They reinforced what she needed to hear - that his situation wasn’t her fault, and his abuse was not okay. These messages and Shine’s referral to a good lawyer helped her get through, become stronger, and eventually find a new job with a more supportive employer.

As a victim of violence in the home, Rebecca found it difficult to get time off work while she was going through the process of leaving her abusive husband and trying to provide adequate support for her two young children through that difficult time. People in her workplace didn't understand what she was going through and saw her as an unreliable, emotional wreck. After many years of abuse, Rebecca finally left her husband with help from Shine.

According to Rebecca, “If my work had supported me through that time and given me paid leave when I needed it to deal with what was going on, I would have been in a better frame of mind and more focused on my job while I was at work. Instead, I made a lot of mistakes at work and wasn’t a very happy person to be around. A lot of things happened outside work, leaving my children and me mentally scarred because I didn’t have enough time and energy to get things sorted with our safety planning.”

Zac started his new reception job the same day he broke off his relationship with Anton. Two days later, Anton was out in front of Zac’s office, watching him. He was there all week. Workmates started noticing. Zac was embarrassed and anxious. Zac finally went out to talk to Anton – ending up with Anton shouting at and threatening him. Zac came inside feeling humiliated. His manager asked him to come in her office. Zac was scared he would get a warning or lose his job.

Instead, Lori asked him how he was feeling. She’d seen the man outside shouting and was concerned for Zac’s safety. She reminded him about their domestic violence policy and that he had a right to be safe. She offered to help him with a workplace safety plan and to have him ring Shine for help to deal with Anton outside work. With a trespass order, a temporary shift of desk and some other support strategies, the stalking ended and Zac felt very grateful.