On 25 July 2018, New Zealand finalised legislation that will give workers who are victims of domestic violence the right to paid leave and other employment law protections. The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament and will come into force on 1 April 2019. The Bill provides for flexible working for victims of domestic violence, ten days’ domestic violence leave and protects individuals from adverse action because they are victims of domestic violence.
Flexible working for victims of domestic violence
The Bill allows employees who are victims of domestic violence to request a variation of their working arrangements for a period of up to two months. The purpose of the variation is to enable employees to deal with the results of being a person affected by domestic violence.
Employers are required to deal with the request as soon as possible and can ask for proof that the employee is a person affected by domestic violence. The Bill permits an employer to refuse the flexible working request for several reasons including an inability to reorganise work among existing staff and detrimental impact on work quality or performance.
Domestic violence leave
The Bill amends the Holidays Act 2003 to create a new type of leave: domestic violence leave. When the Act comes into force, employees will be entitled to 10 days per year of domestic violence leave. This leave is treated similarly to sick leave and bereavement leave in that:
- the entitlement arises after 6 months of employment;
- payment is to be calculated in the same way as sick or bereavement leave;
- upon agreement, leave can be taken in advance of the entitlement accruing;
- an employee is not paid out domestic violence leave on termination of employment.
The employer may require proof that the employee is a person who is affected by domestic violence.
The Bill amends the Human Rights Act 1993 to add a new form of unlawful discrimination in employment. Specifically, it will be unlawful to treat any person adversely on the grounds that the person is, or may be, a person affected by domestic violence.
The Bill also amends the ‘personal grievance’ provisions of the Employment Relations Act (in New Zealand employment law, an employee can bring a personal grievance complaint as a first formal step in attempting to resolve a workplace problem). Being treated adversely in employment due to being (or being suspected of being) a person affected by domestic violence is now a ground for a personal grievance.