The Domestic Violence – Victim Protections Bill was passed into law this week and amends the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Holidays Act 2003 and the Human Rights Act 1993. The changes come into effect on 1 April 2019 and enable victims of domestic violence to request a short-term (two months or less) variation to their employment arrangements for the purposes of dealing with the effects of being subject to domestic violence.
An employee affected by domestic violence will be entitled to claim domestic violence leave after six months’ current continuous employment with one employer, or if the employee has worked at least an average of 10 hours per week over the past six months and no less than one hour in each week in that period, or at least 40 hours in each month.
There are a number of procedural steps that need to be followed when an employee makes a request. The request must be in writing, specify the date on which the employee requests the variation to commence, and specify how the variation will assist the employee and the nature of the variation. The employer must notify the employee as soon as possible, but not less than 10 working days after receiving the request, of its decision to approve or refuse. If the employer refuses the request it must state in writing the grounds for refusing and explain the reasons for those grounds. The grounds for refusal to accommodate the employee can include the inability to reorganise work among other staff, recruit additional staff, the impact on quality and performance, the insufficiency of work during the periods the employee proposes to work and the additional burden of costs. The employer is entitled to request proof of domestic violence to support the employee’s application for domestic violence leave.
The entitlements under this legislation also include that an employee can claim 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave in each 12 month period. The entitlement does not carry forward from year to year.
The Human Rights Act grounds for discrimination is amended to include domestic violence as a ground of unlawful discrimination. This means that employers cannot discriminate against an employee in their employment if they are a victim of domestic violence.
Interestingly government watered down the new Act by removing the proposed amendments to the Health and Safety at Work Act to make domestic violence a “work place hazard” for which staff would need to have been trained to deal with.