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Domestic violence is difficult and complicated for anybody affected. Recognising this, a relatively new New Zealand employment law provides people affected by domestic violence with certain legal rights, such as the ability to:

This article sets out:

  • what domestic violence leave is;
  • what your business’ obligations to affected staff are; and 
  • some tips around short-term flexible working arrangements.

What is Domestic Violence Leave?

The Government put domestic violence leave and additional rights into place to recognise the terrible burden that domestic violence imposes. This includes the implications for people’s work and employment. Domestic violence is also known as family violence. It refers to all forms of violence in family and intimate relationships. Domestic violence can be:

  • physical; 
  • sexual; or 
  • psychological.

Recent changes to employment law provide employees affected by domestic violence with the right to:

  • take up to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave each year. This is separate from annual leave, sick leave and bereavement leave. Employers can give more than the ten days required by law if they wish;
  • ask for short-term flexible working arrangements, for up to two months; and
  • not to receive adverse treatment in the workplace because they might have experienced domestic violence. From a legal perspective, this is classified as discrimination.

For the purposes of these new rights and entitlements, it does not matter when the domestic violence took place. Employees still have these rights if they experienced domestic violence before: 

  • they began working for their current employer; or
  • the law changed.

Another important point is that employees can also take domestic violence leave to support a child who has experienced domestic violence. This is as long as the child lives with that employee some of the time.

What Are My Business’ Obligations?

Of course, employers have always had a good faith obligation to support their employees. This includes when they are affected by serious personal situations, such as those relating to domestic violence. The new law changes add to this by implementing specific rights for affected workers and some obligations for businesses.

For instance, you must ensure that your employees can ask for, and have approved, domestic violence leave.

As an employer, note that you can decide to:

  • offer more than the minimum ten days of paid domestic violence leave; or 
  • let an employee take annual leave, unpaid leave or domestic violence leave in advance when they have used all their paid domestic violence leave.

However, when you decide to offer affected employees more than the minimum leave, you must record all of these arrangements in writing.

Short-term flexible work arrangements, and the obligation to make these available to affected employees, may require separate consideration and treatment by your business. 

Short-Term Flexible Work Arrangements

Employees affected by domestic violence have the right to ask their employer for a short-term flexible working arrangement. Changes to working arrangements might include:

  • hours and days of work;
  • the location of the employee’s workplace; and 
  • particular duties they undertake at work.

Note that employees can ask for this kind of flexible working at any time, even if the domestic violence took place before they became an employee.

As an employer, you must reply in writing within ten working days at the latest of a request. You should give your answer to a request for short-term flexible working in writing as soon as you can. 

If you would like to decline a request for a short-term flexible working arrangement, you must give details in writing about your reasons. Where possible, you should certainly look to make such an arrangement work. Valid reasons for refusing a request include if an employer:

  • asked the employee for proof of domestic violence, and did not get the proof they asked for within ten working days of getting the request; or
  • cannot reasonably change working arrangements.

Whether or not you agree to the request, you must give your employee information about suitable support services that can help with domestic violence. You can do this when you give your written answer to the employee’s request or before. By law, you must do this.

Key Takeaways

Domestic violence leave in New Zealand refers to the legal rights of employees who are affected by domestic violence. This includes if they are supporting a child who lives with them who has been affected by domestic violence. These include the ability to: 

  • take up to ten days of paid domestic violence leave each year;
  • ask for a short-term flexible working arrangement; and 
  • not to be treated adversely. 

Your business has an obligation to enable these rights for your employees and make short-term flexible working arrangements available if they are at all possible. If you want to know more about your employment obligations, contact LegalVision’s New Zealand employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is domestic violence leave in New Zealand?

People affected by domestic violence in New Zealand now have certain legal rights, such as the ability to take up to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave, ask for a short-term flexible working arrangement, and not to be treated adversely.

Is domestic violence leave the same as family violence leave?

Yes, these are the same thing that can be referred to by either term.

Can I offer an employee more than ten days’ domestic violence leave?

Yes, you can. However, if you allow employees to take domestic violence leave in advance after the first ten days, ensure you record this in writing.

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