Thursday 25 November is White Ribbon Day. White Ribbon Day is an annual campaign to raise support against family violence in New Zealand.
Since April 2019, employees affected by family violence are entitled to 10 days’ paid family violence leave. This is one of the protections brought in by the Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Act 2018. Other protections include:
- the right for an employee to request short-term flexible working arrangements to help manage the effects of family violence; and
- a new ground for a personal grievance in the event an employee has been treated adversely in their employment as the basis the employee is (or assumed/believed to be) a person affected by domestic violence.
The law was introduced as a way to get “a whole-of-society response… [and to] realise we all have a role in helping victims”. It is also a recognition of the ever-blurring lines between home and work lives, and how some perpetrators of family violence threaten victims’ colleagues and livelihoods.
Who is eligible for family violence leave?
Under the Holidays Act 2003, an employee is eligible for family violence leave (sometimes referred to as domestic violence leave) if they have been affected by family violence. This encompasses physical, sexual, or psychological abuse within a family relationship.
Family violence leave may also be taken by a parent to support a child who was been affect, provided the child lives with the parent some of the time.
This leave entitlement is additional to the entitlement of sick leave, annual leave and other types of leave provided for under the Holidays Act and in employment agreements.
A full-time employee must have worked six consecutive months for the same employer to become eligible for family violence leave.
A part-time, causal, or on-call employee must have worked a total of 240 hours, with at least one hour each week or 40 hours each month, for the same employer to become eligible.
If an employee is affected by family violence, it is also within the employer’s rights to offer leave in advance, or look at approving annual leave or paid special leave, depending on the circumstances. We recommend that any arrangements are discussed in good faith and any agreements reached are recorded in writing.
Managing family violence leave
Where an employee wishes to take family violence leave they must notify their employer of this intention as soon as possible.
Employees may also request short-term flexible working arrangements to deal with the effect of family violence. This type of request needs to follow a specific format so the employer can:
- understand the nature and duration of the changes being requested;
- consider whether they need to make any operational changes to accommodate the request; and
- approve or deny the request.
An employer in response to a request for either family violence leave, or flexible working arrangements must provide information to the employee on support services.
We recommend anyone wishing to make a flexible working request, or needing to respond to one, seeks independent legal advice to assist with this process.
Can employers ask for proof of family violence?
While employees are not required to provide proof of family violence, employers may request this.
A request for proof must be made within three working days of the employee’s request for leave. The employee then has 10 working days to provide proof.
The reason an employee takes leave and any proof provided in support of that leave is considered personal information and is protected under the Privacy Act 2020. As family violence is a complex and sensitive matter, it is especially important for employers to remember their obligations to protect the privacy of their employee’s personal information when managing family violence leave.
Employee’s right not to be treated adversely because of family violence
Employees hold a right (under the Human Rights Act 1993) not be treated adversely on the ground they are affect ted by family violence. If the right is breached the employee can bring a personal grievance claim.
To ensure they do not breach this right employer should have clear policies in place which create a supportive work environment. These policies should set out support and entitlements for affected employees.
Where to ask for help | Domestic Violence Support Services
Shine Helpline | Free call 0508 744 633 between 9am-11pm each day
Women’s Refuge | Free call 0800 733 843, 24 hours per day
It’s Not OK | Free call their info line on 0800 456 450
Disclaimer: This information is intended as general legal information and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a specific issue and wish to discuss it, get in contact with the Black Door Law team.