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How to manage and support employees who identify as domestic violence perpetrators 

Key takeaways 

  1. Perpetrators are not entitled to FDV Leave unless they themselves are experiencing family and domestic violence.
  2. They may be able to access other types of leave, such as personal or annual leave, to attend court or access treatment.
  3. You should maintain their confidentiality.
  4. Providing support avenues to perpetrators is not a legal requirement, but it is considered best practice for employee support and workplace safety. 

Employees can also be perpetrators of family and domestic violence. 

A family and domestic violence perpetrator is someone who is violent, threatening or abusive towards a close relative of theirs, someone who lives with them, or their partner or ex-partner.  

As a small business owner, it can be hard to know how to respond to employees that you know or suspect to be perpetrators. 

It is even harder to know what to do if both the victim-survivor and the perpetrator are your employees.  

Perpetrators of family and domestic violence are not entitled to access paid FDV leave for the purpose of dealing with matters arising from perpetration. However, if the employee is themself experiencing family and domestic violence, they can access FDV leave to deal with the impacts of the family and domestic violence. 

It is important to provide a workplace environment that is safe and without risks to health, so far as is reasonably practicable. You must consider and address any work health and safety issues arising from having a perpetrator in the workplace, especially where both the perpetrator and victim-survivor work in the same workplace. You may wish to contact professional services for advice. 

Any employee who threatens, harasses or abuses a family or household member at or in connection with the workplace, including through the use of workplace resources, may be subject to disciplinary action (e.g., formal written warnings, dismissal, etc.). 

Consider other leave entitlements  

Perpetrators may need to take time off during work hours to attend: 

  • court, or  
  • appointments to address their problematic and harmful behaviours.  

In this case, perpetrators are not entitled to FDV leave. 

While a perpetrator is not entitled to FDV leave, if they do need to take time off during work hours to deal with the consequences of the perpetration, you may want to consider what other forms of leave may be appropriately granted to that person. For example, access to: 

  • annual leave 
  • unpaid leave (by agreement)  
  • long service leave. 

You can ask your employee to provide as much notice as practicable, and reasonable evidence, to support their leave, such as evidence of court hearings. 

Maintain privacy and confidentiality 

Confidentiality should be maintained for perpetrators.  

You can read more information about confidentiality and privacy requirements here.

Any information or evidence provided by your employee should be kept confidential

Is it appropriate to dismiss a perpetrator? 

Dismissal could be appropriate where family and domestic violence is perpetrated in connection with work (e.g., through the inappropriate use of work computers, or where there is a violent incident in the workplace and the perpetrator has been warned previously about inappropriate behaviour). 

Whether or not dismissal is appropriate, will depend on the specific circumstances of the case.   

Support for perpetrators 

Providing support avenues to perpetrators is not a legal requirement, but it is considered best practice for employee support and workplace safety. 

Remember, your role is not to be a counsellor.  

If your employee reaches out to you, refer them to the relevant support services.

Best practice: Support any effort to change behaviour 

You might want to think about how you can support an employee who is ready for change and is attempting to change how they behave in their relationships.  

This could mean: 

  • Supporting them to access a behaviour change program.  
  • Supporting them to access counselling, or providing resources and pathways for support.  
  • Allowing time to attend court hearings and other activities that will support behaviour change and promote safety for those who are experiencing or have experienced family and domestic violence. 

By doing these things you are providing an environment where employees can seek help to change their behaviour. 

This helps keep people safe. 

For further advice on family and domestic violence see 1800RESPECT or call 1800 737 732.

For further advice about your workplace rights or information about how to deal with workplace disputes, refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman or call 13 13 94.