The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill will come into force on 1 April 2019. The Bill creates an ability for employees affected by domestic violence to request variations to their employment, and amends the Holidays Act 2003 to create a new type of leave – domestic violence leave.
Flexible Working and Domestic Violence Leave
From April 2019, employees who are victims of domestic violence will be able to request a variation of their working arrangements for up to two months. The purpose of the variation is to allow employees to deal with the results of being affected by domestic violence.
Employees will also become entitled to 10 days’ domestic violence leave per year. An employee will become entitled to 10 days’ domestic violence leave per year after six months of employment. It will be calculated the same way as sick or bereavement leave, and can be taken in advance if agreed to by the employer and employee. Domestic violence leave won’t be paid out on termination of employment.
Where an employee requests a variation to their working arrangements, an employer will be required to consider the request as soon as possible and are entitled to ask for proof the employee is a person affected by domestic violence.
An employer may be able to refuse a request for a variation in working arrangements for several reasons, including if the employer considers they are unable to reorganise work among existing staff, or if there would be a detrimental impact on work quality or performance.
Where an employee makes a request for domestic violence leave, the employer will again be entitled to ask for proof the employee is affected by domestic violence.
The Bill also amends the personal grievance provisions in the Employment Relations Act 2000. A new ground for a personal grievance from April 2019 will be where an employee is treated adversely in employment due to being, or being suspected of being, a person affected by domestic violence.
A Pathway to Safety
The passing of this Bill has made New Zealand the first country in the world to create a universal entitlement for domestic violence victims in the employment realm, and is a step toward addressing domestic violence issues in the country. Whilst the changes do not come into force until April 2019, it is important employers, and also employees, are aware these changes are on their way.