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The Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Act Explained

Published April 08, 2019 (last updated December 3, 2020) -

The Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Act is now in effect, enhancing the workplace legal protections available to employees impacted by domestic violence.

The new entitlements allow eligible employees who are affected by domestic violence to take up to 10 days of paid leave each year.

Additionally, the law allows all employees affected by domestic violence to request a variation in their working arrangements for a short space of time. The cap on this is two months, but employers must respond to any requests within 10 working days. The working arrangement variation may include the location of work, hours of work and/or duties required.

It’s important for employers to keep in mind that employees must not be treated adversely as a result of their requests, and must be treated fairly at all times. If an employee believes the employer has refused their request unreasonably, then they are entitled to raise a dispute within six months.

An Overview of the Act

The domestic violence leave doesn’t accrue, and these 10 days cannot be paid out when an employee moves on.

Similarly to bereavement and sick leave entitlements, employees must be continuously employed with their employer for a period of six months (or meet a minimum working hours threshold over that time) before they are entitled to take domestic violence leave.

Employers can request evidence or proof, however, is no guidance on what this looks like in practical terms. If the employee is requesting leave to deal with the affects of domestic violence, an employer should consider whether the employee has a reasonable excuse as to why they cannot provide proof or what proof would be reasonable to request.

There is a broad definition when dealing with a person who is affected by domestic violence. It can be the person who has had domestic violence inflicted upon them, or someone who resides with a child or person who has had domestic violence inflicted upon them.

Key factors to keep in mind:

  • It does not matter when the violence occurred, even if it was before their employment with you commenced.
  • Short-term flexible working arrangements (of up to two months) can be requested by the person affected.
  • The employer can deny requests, however, it must be denied based on specific reasons such as an inability to reorganise work or a burden of additional costs. This is similar to standard flexible working arrangements.
  • Once you receive a request for flexible working arrangements, you have 10 working days to respond to your employee with a decision.
  • Treating someone badly because they may have been affected by domestic violence will be considered a category of prohibited discrimination and adverse treatment is unacceptable.
  • An employee is entitled to raise a claim of discrimination if they believe they are being refused domestic violence leave or flexible working arrangements unfairly. This can be raised via the Human Rights Commission or in a personal grievance against their employer.

Grounds for Refusal

You can refuse a request, but it’s important to remember that the morale of your employee and their well-being could be impacted by your refusal. It’s important to extend as much support as possible to the person who is going through this situation. That being said, there are certain grounds for refusal.

If you request proof and it isn’t provided to you within 10 working days, you can refuse the request for flexible working arrangements. You can also refuse the request based on an inability to reasonably accommodate the flexible working request. Those grounds may include:

  • An inability to recognise existing staff to cover the change.
  • An inability to recruit new staff to cover.
  • The change will impact on performance and quality.
  • Insufficient work required during the proposed new hours.
  • A burden of additional costs.
  • A detrimental impact on the company’s ability to meet demands.

If you have questions about the new rules surrounding employees affected by domestic violence, these new entitlements and how they apply to your business, contact Employsure to speak with one of our Specialists.

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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