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3 min read - May 21, 2024

Family Violence - Employment

Family violence has horrific statistics in New Zealand, with wide-reaching implications, both for the children in a family and for the victim and their life beyond the home. This article focuses on support in the employment sphere that is available to victims. For a detailed understanding of family violence generally, please refer to this article.

The Employment Relations Act 2000 is the principal act that governs employer and employee relationships. The Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act 2018 (Act) was introduced to create further duties for employers or assistance to employees who are dealing with the effects of domestic violence. The Act does this by implementing additional rights such as domestic violence leave.

It is clear that the impact of domestic violence extends beyond the personal realm, with an estimated cost of $368 million to businesses in 2017 due to loss of productivity and staff turnover. The consequences of this loss of productivity for businesses are hoped to be relieved by the introduction of domestic violence leave. Domestic violence leave is comparable to sick leave and will provide the employee with the chance to seek help without worrying about their employment position. Subsequently, allowing employees to take leave for domestic violence reasons will enable employers to redistribute work and ensure tasks are not overlooked, which may occur if the relevant employee is so distracted by their own concerns or fear that they are not productive.

As an employer, it is crucial to understand your obligations under this Act. Once an employee has been continuously employed for over six months, they are entitled to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave per year. The paid leave is based on the 'relevant daily pay' or 'average daily pay' for each day of leave taken (just as sick leave is remunerated).

An employee can use the leave for incidents involving themselves or a child that is ordinarily or periodically in their care. Domestic violence leave can also be taken by an employee for incidents that occurred prior to the commencement of their employment.

Additionally, the Act introduces the right for employees to request a short-term flexible working arrangement for up to 2 months. This may relate to adjusted hours, location (for example, working away from the office), or duties (for example, to reduce the workload, or reduce the number of individuals they manage to relieve some stress). Similarly, employers have the flexibility to offer additional leave days or allow employees to take unpaid or annual leave if they exhaust their domestic violence leave.

Both employer and employee should act on a good faith basis during this time. The employer is entitled to request proof of the violence, although with the understanding that proof may be situational and not always available. As well, an employee should make attempts to provide proof promptly. Proof may include court or police documents, letters from support people or organisations, or medical reports.

Whether you are an employer or an employee, K3 Lawyers are available to help you navigate this often difficult space. Please reach out to one of our team if you have any questions.

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