• Leah Norman

Domestic Violence Leave

NZ introduces 'world first' paid domestic violence leave as Victims Protection Bill becomes law

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world, with police responding to a family violence incident every four minutes.

And now our government has passed legislation granting victims of domestic violence up to ten days’ paid leave a year and flexible working arrangements to help deal with the impacts of the violence. It requires employers to have policies in place for dealing with the effects of domestic violence on employees, providing employers with a framework to follow in these situations.

From April next year, all victims of domestic violence will be able to get support from their employers without worrying about losing their jobs.

The new law entitles employees affected by domestic violence to up to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave per year, in order to deal with the effects of domestic violence. Employees will be able to take this leave as needed – similar to the existing sick leave and bereavement leave provisions.

Employees will also be able to request a short-term variation to their working arrangements (up to two months or shorter) to which the employer must respond to urgently and within 10 working days. The variation can include changes to hours of work, location and duties of work. This is similar, and in addition to, the existing rights employees have to make a flexible working request.

From a health and safety perspective, the bill amends the definition of "hazard" in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to include situations where a person's behaviour stems from being a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence and also introduces a requirement for business owners to have a policy for dealing with hazards that arise in the workplace due to domestic violence.

The new law also explicitly prohibits an employee being treated adversely in their employment on the grounds that they are, or are suspected to be, a person affected by domestic violence, as grounds for discrimination under the Human Rights Act. Employees will be able to raise a dispute if they believe that their employer unreasonably refused a request made under the new provisions, and must do so within six months.

The changes will come into effect on 1 April 2019.


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