On 25 July 2018 Parliament voted on the Domestic Violence Protection Bill, with only National and ACT opposing the Bill. The passing of this Bill will impose various obligations on Employers, effective as of 1 April 2019 under the Human Rights Act 1993, Holidays Act 2003 and Employment Relations Act 2000.
An Employee who is classed as a person affected by domestic violence will be entitled to 10 paid days domestic violence leave per annum. This entitlement will be in addition to any annual, sick or bereavement leave entitlements already provided for under the Holidays Act 2003. Domestic Violence Leave will work in a similar manner to sick or bereavement leave, in the sense that an Employee will become entitled to such leave after six (6) months of continuous employment with your business.
For an Employee to become entitled to Domestic Violence Leave they must be classed as a “person affected by domestic violence.” For a person to be affected by domestic violence, they have to be a person who is currently, or has had, domestic violence inflicted upon them and/or be a person who ordinarily resides, or periodically resides, with a child who another person is inflicting, or has had, domestic violence inflicted upon them.
Green Party member, Jan Logie, has stated that research conducted in New Zealand and Australia, where Employees are already covered by these provisions, has shown that the cost to Employers is minimal. Whereas National’s Justice spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, stated that National believe there are better alternatives to the bill – rather than passing the cost onto small to medium sized business owners.
In addition to the 10 days paid leave, an Employee may also request for a flexible working arrangement which could operate for up to a two (2) month period in order to assist the Employee who is affected by domestic violence. When an Employer receives a request of this nature they must notify the Employee of their decision as soon as possible, but not later than 10 working days after receiving the request.
Domestic Violence Leave will not accumulate, or be carried over, and it should not be paid out at the ending of the Employee’s employment. However, you could be issued with a penalty by the Employment Relations Authority, payable to the Employee, if you do not comply with the legal obligations. An Employer could also face other penalties for Human Rights breaches if it is found that the Employer has discriminated against a person who is affected by domestic violence.
So how can you prepare for the change? Update your Employment Agreements or Leave Policy to include provisions around Domestic Violence Leave so you, and your Employees, are aware of the upcoming entitlements and how they will operate within your business before the changes come into force on 1 April 2019.
If you require any assistance with updating your employment documentation, or you would like to know about the upcoming changes, feel free to give one of our team a call and we would be happy to help.
The Employer File is written by Russell Drake and Ashley Penney, of Russell Drake Consulting Ltd., Specialist Employment Relations Consultants who act exclusively for Employers – see www.russelldrakeconsulting.co.nz or phone (07) 838 0018 – licenced Employment Relations Consultants to the Employers & Manufacturers Association (EMA)