Posted on: Jun 22, 2018

22 June 2018:The Domestic Violence – Victim’s Protection Bill has passed its second reading in Parliament. The purpose of the Bill is to increase employment protection for victims of domestic violence in the workplace by reducing any existing barriers that may prevent them from having stable employment.

What is this Bill about?

The Bill seeks to amend five pieces of legislation, four of which directly affect employment law. These are the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, Holidays Act 2003 and the Human Rights Act 1993. The Domestic Violence Act will also be amended to define what constitutes a victim of domestic violence and this will include anyone who provides care and support to a sufferer of domestic violence in their household.

What are the proposed changes in employment law?

Holidays Act 2003

The Bill proposes to introduce up to 10 days of domestic violence leave per year to be paid at the employee’s relevant daily pay. In order to be entitled to this leave an employee is required to provide documentation relating to the violence such as a police report or a copy of a protection order etc.

Employment Relations Act 2000

The Bill proposes that victims of domestic violence will be entitled to make a request for flexible working arrangements. This will allow victims to vary their hours, days, place of work and duties to reduce the abuse that may arise from the predictability of their working hours and location.

An employer will normally have to respond to this request as soon as possible but no later than three months after receiving it. The only constraint with this Bill is that while currently any employee can make a request for flexible working arrangements under Part 6AA, irrespective of their length of service, as a victim of domestic violence an employee has to meet a higher threshold which includes being employed for at least six months continuously with their employer to be eligible to make this request.

It is worth noting however, that there are amendments proposed for consideration by the select committee which includes removing the six month continuous employment criteria, and adding the statutory right for an employee to make a request for a short-term (2-month or shorter) variation of their working arrangements if they are affected by domestic violence.  Under this proposed provision (Part 6AB) the employer must deal with a request for a short-term variation as soon as possible but no later than 5 working days after receiving it.

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 the definition of a hazard will be amended to include the effects of domestic violence.  This will require employers to have policies in place to deal with these situations accordingly.

Employers will also have a duty to take all reasonable and practical steps to provide any health and safety representatives with training in supporting employees who are victims of domestic violence.

Human Rights Act 1993

The Bill proposes to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of being a victim of domestic violence under the Employment Relations Act, especially where there may be a misunderstanding about the victim’s experience.

Who might this bill affect?

  • Victims of domestic violence
  • Anybody who provides care and support to a victim of domestic violence
  • Employers
  • Employees

Where to from here?

This is possibly one of those rare circumstances where a private issue is brought into the workplace, requiring employers to intervene in employees’ personal lives. Employers must have knowledge about the domestic violence in order to meet their obligations under this Bill. In order to protect their employees, employers will have to encourage employees to speak out about any abuse and increase awareness of it in the workplace.  This is likely to require some education, training and changes to workplace policies and procedures going forward.

We need to wait and see what happens and will keep you informed with any further developments that relate to this Bill.

In the meantime, you can look at the resources provided on the website www.businessworkingtoendfamilyviolence.co.nz, which includes sample family violence policy documents which could be implemented in your organisation.



Disclaimer

This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.