Vice-President of FWC rejects 10-day family violence leave

Plans to include a domestic and family violence leave clause in employment contracts are stuttering after a commissioner for Australia’s workplace tribunal rejected a unions’ claim on Monday.

NO LEAVE: Fair Work Commission vice-president Graeme Watson has rejected the ACTU's application for a 10-day domestic and family violence clause to be included in employment contracts.

NO LEAVE: Fair Work Commission vice-president Graeme Watson has rejected the ACTU's application for a 10-day domestic and family violence clause to be included in employment contracts.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions had applied for 10 days of annual leave for employees to attend family-violence related matters, like counselling, court appearances and relocating or making other safety arrangements. 

In handing down his ruling, Fair Work Commission Vice-President Graeme Watson, one of three commissioners to rule on the ACTU application, said the request, in its current form, would “undermine the level of trust at the workplace and cause significant uncertainty and cost for employers”.

A majority decision must be reached by all three commissioners for a claim to be successful, however it is unclear when the two remaining rulings will be handed down.  

Once the 10-day allocation was exhausted, the union also sought an extra two days of unpaid domestic violence leave on each occasion a worker had to attend family-violence related appointments. 

“In my view the grant of a new form of leave in itself will have uncertain consequences,” commissioner Watson stated.

“A better approach is to build awareness of the issue and to encourage a considerate, collaborative and flexible approach by employers and affected employees.”

Commissioner Watson will retire from his position on Tuesday following a high-profile public resignation last month, in which he said the "workplace relations system is actually undermining the objects of the Fair Work legislation".

"I do not consider that the system provides a framework for cooperative and productive workplace relations and I do not consider that it promotes economic prosperity or social inclusion," Mr Watson wrote in his resignation letter. 

Both the Fair Work Commission and the ACTU declined to comment on Mr Watson’s ruling. 

Bendigo’s centre for non violence and Annie North Women's Refuge have been contacted for comment. 

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