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How To Support A Staff Member Affected By Domestic Violence

Published June 05, 2019 (last updated December 7, 2020) -

Employee Domestic Violence Leave Rights

In New Zealand, ‘domestic violence’ (or family violence) refers to all violence in family and intimate relationships.

Someone experiences domestic violence if they are being abused by an intimate partner, ex-partner, someone in their family or whānau, or by a flatmate. This can happen to women or men, and within heterosexual or same-sex couples. Someone who carries out domestic violence might not live with the person they are abusing.

The government has recently introduced new legal protections for those affected by domestic violence.

Since 1 April 2019, employees now have the right to

  • get paid domestic violence leave (up to 10 days) if eligible; this leave is separate from other types of leave
  • ask for short-term flexible working (lasting up to 2 months)
  • not be treated differently at work because of their domestic situation

It goes without saying that the human impact of domestic violence is immense. To help an employee affected, here are some tips to help you and your business navigate the situation

Staffing Levels & Action Plans

First of all, think about having a conversation with employees about what might happen in the event that one of them may wish request their entitlements.  Having a policy for all employees and a plan in place for managers who may deal with these requests is essential.

Things like staffing levels, and shift rotation, will be affected, impacting not only your business but other employees as well . Writing down an action plan or a few ideas for what to do in the case of an suddenly available staff member is a good first step.

On top of that, employers should start to think about what is possible in terms of flexible working arrangements. Can you offer a remote working arrangement? Or perhaps, smaller shifts than usual?  Keep in mind that flexible work can include minor changes, such as sitting away from external windows or not taking inbound calls.

Another suggestion is for employers to set up a liaison with a domestic violence support organisation, to discuss with them how to best to plan for managing an employee affected by domestic violence.


The most important element is, of course, the human element. While employees now have their entitlements, businesses should think about how they can provide a supportive work culture that might encourage employees to recover and return to normal work habits earlier.

Another thing that employers should keep in mind is taking note of any changes in an employee’s behaviour. They might seem down, or mentioning trouble at home often. Worse, they may have unusual and unexplained injuries.

Any conversation about domestic violence will be sensitive. The law reflects this, and employees aren’t compelled to inform their employers of details of their situation.

However, if an employee requests leave or flexible working arrangements, employers can ask for proof. There is no set list of what is reasonable proof.  Proof may come in the form a police report, or a letter from a doctor or nurse, or domestic violence support program for example.

Keeping them safe

Anyone personally affected by a domestic violence situation is in a very vulnerable situation, and as the workplace is probably the place where any person spends the second most amount of time, it’s important that employers treat the workplace as a place for a potential continuation of the troubles at home. In other words, the employee may be confronted by their abuser at work.

Three quick ideas to make an affected employee feel safe is to ensure they’re not working alone, or opening or closing the store, and to review the security measures in place at the workplace (for example, CCTV coverage). There are implications with workplace surveillance, so having a policy in place before there are issues is vital.  

Taking and communicating steps like these to your workforce should help them feel more at ease.

If you have any concerns, Employsure is here to help. Contact us for a confidential discussion about how we can support your business.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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