A bill aimed at enhancing protections for victims of domestic violence in New Zealand has received strong cross party support this year. This means that the proposed changes, including a number of changes relating to employment, are likely to be enacted in 2018.

Employers can expect to be impacted by the following changes if the Domestic Violence – Victim's Protection Bill (Bill) is implemented:

  • employees will be entitled to paid domestic violence leave
  • behaviour stemming from domestic violence will be regarded as a workplace hazard
  • employers will have duties to implement specific policies and provide training
  • being a victim of domestic violence will be a prohibited ground of discrimination.

Domestic Violence Leave and Working Arrangements

The flagship reform of the Bill is the inclusion of 10 days paid leave for employees who have either suffered domestic violence or who are required to provide care to immediate family members who are victims of domestic violence. Requests must be substantiated by documents such as police reports, evidence of criminal proceedings or reports from medical practitioners or domestic violence support organisations.

Employees experiencing domestic violence will be able to ask to vary their working arrangements. Employers will be obliged to consider such requests but may refuse them for reasons such as staffing and productivity requirements and the cost to their business. Employers will be required to refuse any requests that are inconsistent with the working arrangements in an applicable collective agreement.

Domestic Violence as a Workplace Hazard

In a world first, New Zealand will specify that the behaviour of victims or perpetrators of domestic violence is a hazard under health and safety legislation. Workplaces will need to have policies that address situations where such behaviour poses a threat to health and safety. Additionally, health and safety representatives will need to be provided with training so that they can support workers who are victims of domestic violence.

This is an area to watch as employers will need to be ready to implement the changes as they are introduced.