Verifying family violence

14.36 While ensuring that the needs of employees experiencing family violence are met, there is also a need to preserve the integrity of the system to ensure disclosure of family violence is not seen as an easy way to, for example, gain additional leave, thereby ‘incentivising’ a claim of family violence—a theme of this Inquiry discussed in Chapter 2. As a result, to ensure the integrity of the employment system, it is necessary, in certain circumstances, to require verification of claims of family violence.

14.37 Verification of family violence within the employment law system is discussed in Chapters 16 and 17, in particular, in relation to requirements under s 107 of the Fair Work Act for accessing leave under the NES and as a component of a family violence clause in an enterprise agreement or modern award. In Chapter 17, the ALRC recognises that in order to preserve the integrity of the leave system there is a need to ensure that employees accessing family violence leave are subject to the same requirements to demonstrate their entitlement to the leave as other forms of leave.

14.38 Throughout the Inquiry, stakeholders have consistently recognised that verification of family violence by employers and others may be required in certain circumstances.[29]

14.39 A key issue that arises is what type of verification of family violence should be required. For example, in the context of access to family violence leave, stakeholders suggested a wide range of documentary verification to support a claim of family violence may be appropriate, including a document issued by a:

  • police officer;
  • court;
  • health professional, including doctor, nurse or psychiatrist/psychologist;
  • lawyer;
  • family violence service or refuge worker; and/or
  • the employee, in the form of a signed statutory declaration. [30]

14.40 The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) emphasised the importance of individual choice with respect to verification, or demonstration of an entitlement to a particular benefit:

Where there is more than one acceptable way of demonstrating an entitlement it is often better practice to offer alternatives and give individuals the choice as to the personal information they provide. Providing choice as to the source of information enables individuals to exercise a level of control over their personal information and may assist in minimising barriers to disclosure.[31]

14.41 Where relevant in Chapters 15–17, the ALRC has noted the need for verification of family violence. The ALRC also considers that providing employees and employers with information about what might constitute appropriate verification could form part of the national education campaign or workplace policy referred to below, as well as being included in material developed in relation to developing family violence clauses in enterprise agreements.

[29] See, eg, Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Submission CFV 18, 6 April 2011.

[30] Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission CFV 48, 21 April 2011; ADFVC, Submission CFV 26, 11 April 2011; Joint submission from Domestic Violence Victoria and others, Submission CFV 22, 6 April 2011; Queensland Law Society, Submission CFV 21, 6 April 2011; Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Submission CFV 18, 6 April 2011; Redfern Legal Centre, Submission CFV 15, 5 April 2011; WEAVE, Submission CFV 14, 5 April 2011; Women’s Health Victoria, Submission CFV 11, 5 April 2011; Australian Services Union Victorian Authorities and Service Branch, Submission CFV 10, 4 April 2011.

[31] Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, Submission CFV 18, 6 April 2011.