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Respecting privacy and confidentiality: Your obligations under the law

Key takeaways

  1. Your employee’s information is private. 
  2. You must not share anything your employee tells you or provides you in relation to family and domestic violence.  
  3. You must not record family and domestic violence leave (FDV leave) on any pay slips.  
  4. You need to maintain a confidential record of leave balances. 
  5. If your employee provides you with evidence or documentation, it must be stored securely and confidentially.  

If you’re supporting an employee who is experiencing family and domestic violence, it’s important that you understand the legal rules of confidentiality requirements around FDV leave. 

These rules give your employee assurance that their information will be kept private. 

Non-compliance with confidentiality requirements is a breach of the Fair Work Act and other privacy laws and could lead to disciplinary action for individuals involved in a breach. 

Remember, these steps are in place to protect your employee

To meet your legal obligations, you must

Treat anything your employee tells you about family and domestic violence in confidence.  

This means: 

  • not sharing any records or details about your employee’s situation with anybody else 
  • not sharing the reasons for their leave with anybody else 
  • not using any information regarding FDV leave for any other purpose. 

See below for exceptions. 

Store evidence shared with you securely and confidentially.  

This means:  

  • consider sighting evidence provided to support paid FDV leave, rather than keeping a copy   
  • making sure any records taken about FDV leave including supporting evidence such as court documents, statutory declarations of copies of police reports, are not stored on a shared drive or other means where other staff members could access the information.  

Do not record FDV leave on any pay slips.  

This means: 

  • making sure there are no FDV leave balances displayed on pay slips, and no leave taken displayed
  • making sure leave taken is reflected as time worked or another kind of payment for performance work, such as an allowance, bonus or overtime payment – this helps protect your employee’s safety and maintain confidentiality from other staff (i.e., payroll, line managers etc.). 

You can read more about how to manage the payroll process on the Leave and payment processes page

Are there any times you can share information? 

As an employer the only times you can share information disclosed to you by an employee is if: 

  • you need to share the information by law, such as to comply with court requirements 
  • you need to share the information to protect the life, health or safety of the employee or another person 
  • the employee consents to you sharing this information.  

Do you need to report disclosures of family and domestic violence? 

If you find out that an employee is experiencing family and domestic violence, you might feel worried about them and want to keep them safe

You might think you have to tell someone, like the police. 

Mostly, it is up to the person experiencing family and domestic violence to decide who they tell and what help they get. This makes sure they are in control of how their situation is managed.

This keeps them safe.  

Reporting requirements explained

  • In most states in Australia, an employer is not required to report their employees experiencing family and domestic violence. They are required to ensure the health and safety of workers while they are at work, so far as is reasonably practicable.  
  • The Northern Territory imposes obligations on adults to report knowledge of family and domestic violence.  
  • In certain cases, there are legal obligations to report acts or threats of family violence to external bodies (i.e., the police) if this violence threatens to impact or involves the safety of a child.  
  • It’s important to remember that the laws surrounding whether you need to report or not differ from state to state.  

Find out what reporting laws apply to you in your own state or territory by visiting 1800RESPECT's Mandatory reporting requirements page.

What records do you need to keep or may be requested? 

  • You do need to keep confidential records of leave taken and leave balances. 
  • Records of FDV leave may be requested by your employee. 
  • Records of FDV leave may also be requested by the police or legal authorities for use in legal processes such as: 
    • Intervention Order (IVO) hearings 
    • Family Court processes 
    • Coroner's Court processes. 

TIP: Remind your employee that anything they share with you will remain confidential – other than in exceptional circumstances (such as where required by law or there is a genuine risk to safety). This can bring them peace of mind and open up communication.

Want more information?  

1800RESPECT is the national service is for anyone impacted by domestic and family violence, including employers. Call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or chat online via the website. The service is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week, for information, counselling and referrals.  

For further advice about your workplace rights or information about how to deal with workplace disputes, refer to the Fair Work Ombudsman and visit the Fair Work Ombudsman's Paid family and domestic leave page

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.