New Zealand has an unfortunately high statistic for rates of domestic violence compared to counterparts in the developed world. As of 1 April, victims of domestic violence in New Zealand will be entitled to 10 days paid leave or flexible working conditions or both under the new legislation of the Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act 2018.
Green MP Jan Logie introduced this proposal in 2016 as a commitment to early intervention and prevention of domestic violence. After the bill garnered support from parliament in late 2018, it was passed and will take effect on 1 April.
The Act entitles a person affected by domestic violence to:
- Additional leave;
- To request short term flexible working arrangements
- To take legal action against their employer if they have been treated adversely because they are a person, or is suspected or assumed to be a person, affected by domestic violence.
An employee is a ‘person affected by domestic violence’ if domestic violence is inflicted on them or a child who resides with them.
Ten days’ paid leave will be available to an employee who is affected by domestic violence. This leave entitlement is in addition to all sick leave and annual leave entitlements. This leave is to allow victims time to cope with the extremely difficult and stressful challenge of removing themselves from abuse without losing income or feeling pressure to walk away from a job. In addition, this leave offers the employee an opportunity to attend to legal commitments, find new accommodation and look after affected children.
While the Act aims to assist victims of domestic violence and their families, it came up against concerns from the public or small and medium-sized business owners that worried who would take responsibility for the costs of the new entitlements. While these financial concerns are valid, they are secondary to the positive impact this legislation will have for the large numbers of domestic violence victims in the New Zealand workforce. Issues of cash-flow and managing staffing pale in comparison to the overall cost of domestic violence to victims and society. The direct costs to employers also can be offset by recruitment costs and high turnover rates that were the result of an absence of such policies.
Several businesses throughout New Zealand including the Warehouse, ANZ and Countdown, reported they already have domestic violence policies in place to offer support for their employees.
In addition to the obligations in the Act, employers have obligations to minimise risks to their employees’ health and safety. This includes risks that may come from outside sources while at work. This means policies and procedures around assisting victims of domestic violence should be in place irrespective of the new legislation.
The question of how to implement these workplace policies effectively should be considered by all employers.
Points to consider when looking to implement new policies include:
- How can you protect your employee’s privacy when they are using the leave they are entitled to under the Act? For example, how would an employee apply or disclose the domestic violence leave on pay slips or timesheets discretely?
- How will employers juggle absences of key members of staff?
- What are the employer’s obligations?
- How can you respond appropriately to such requests for leave, under complex and sensitive circumstances?
The Act provides an opportunity for employers to review wellbeing policies and to re-evaluate all current policies and procedures when integrating this new legislation into their regular employment standards.
For more information
If you would like more information on what this legislation provides for and how you can best implement new policies that respond to the legislation, get in touch with our Employment law expert Caroline Rieger on 04 495 8908 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taking legal action
Our family law team are well placed to support victims and their families through all legal processes following an incident of domestic violence. Read our recent review of Police Safety Orders. To book a consultation call 04 472 0020 to speak with one of our family lawyers.
Support for Victims of Domestic Violence
If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence the following services are available:
areyouok.org.nz | 0800 456 450
victimsupport.org.nz/get-help | 0800 842 846
womensrefuge.org.nz/get-help/ | 0800 733 843
If you’re in danger now – please phone the police on 111.