Family violence—a role for the NES?

17.8 As noted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), tribunals and parliaments in Australia have a ‘long history of creating a limited number of minimum employment standards of general application’.[10] As a result, in the course of this Inquiry, two key questions arise when considering amendment to the NES—first, why include provisions relating to family violence, as opposed to other grounds? Secondly, why in the NES, as opposed to other workplace instruments and policies?

17.9 Given the prevalence of family violence and its on employees, workplaces and productivity, the ALRC considers that the NES, in particular with respect to the right to request flexible work arrangements and family violence-related leave, could play an important role in responding to family violence when it becomes a workplace issue.

17.10 While important, the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse (ADFVC) argues that mechanisms other than statutory entitlements alone are inadequate, as statutory entitlements are ‘fundamental to achieving widespread change to address the impact of family violence in the workplace’.[11] This is in part because provision of such entitlements acknowledges that ‘dealing with family violence is a community rather than just an individual responsibility’.[12]

17.11 However, amendment to the NES would involve a significant change to the Fair Work Act framework after already extensive consultations surrounding the introduction of the Act. In addition, there is a need to build a foundation for any such changes, in order to balance the needs of employees with the economic and practical realities faced by businesses and employers. As a result, in line with the phased approach to implementation outlined in Chapter 15, the ALRC is of the view that consideration of amendments to the NES should occur in accordance with Recommendations 17–1 and 17–2.

[10] ACCI, Submission CFV 19.

[11] ADFVC, Submission CFV 26. Further, for example, the AHRC submitted that amendments to the NES ‘are preferable to this issue being left for parties to negotiate in collective workplace agreements. History has shown that clauses which primarily benefit women are slow to become common bargaining claims and be negotiated into workplace agreements’: Australian Human Rights Commission, Submission
CFV 48.

[12] Redfern Legal Centre, Submission CFV 15.