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Helping staff with domestic violence leave

Employees affected by domestic abuse can take up to 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave. They can also ask for flexible working arrangements for up to two months. Like sick leave and bereavement leave, domestic violence leave is to be taken as needed.

A law change means employees affected by domestic abuse can now take domestic violence leave.

A law change means employees affected by domestic abuse can now take domestic violence leave.

What you need to know

You must:

  • Give employees affected by domestic violence up to 10 days’ domestic violence leave per year, once they have worked for you for 6 months continuously.
  • Give people domestic violence leave even if the abuse was before they became your employee.
  • Pay employees the equivalent of their daily pay, or average daily pay, for each domestic violence leave day that would have been a work day.
  • Change annual leave to domestic violence leave if an employee qualifies for domestic violence leave while they are on holiday.
  • Consider giving the person flexible work arrangements for up to two months to help them deal with the effects of the violence.
  • Respond to requests for flexible working arrangements in writing within 10 working days, but sooner if you can.
  • Give your employee information on domestic violence support services when giving your written answer, or before.
  • Tell the person why, if you cannot accommodate their request.
  • Not adversely treat an employee or job applicant who is, or you suspect is, affected by domestic violence.

You can:

  • Ask for proof the employee is affected by domestic violence, for example, a letter from a support agency, or talk to someone who can explain their situation and how it affects them.
  • Ask employees to let you know they intend to take domestic violence leave as early as possible.

Be open, honest and responsive to the employee, and expect the same from them.

Workplace records

Document your commitment to creating a supportive workplace that also complies with legal requirements to give domestic violence leave. It’s a good idea to create a domestic violence policy. Use our policy building tool, which gives you best practice and can be customised to your workplace.

Add domestic violence leave to your employment contracts. Our employment agreement builder has legally-safe clauses you can use.

Domestic violence policy(external link) — Workplace policy builder

What can I do to support someone who is experiencing family violence?(external link) — Its not OK

If you don’t follow domestic violence employment laws, you may be fined.

If you don’t follow domestic violence employment laws, you may be fined.

Domestic violence leave(external link) — Employment New Zealand

What domestic violence means

The term includes:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • psychological abuse, eg intimidation, damage to property, threats of abuse, financial or economic abuse.

It is sometimes called family violence. But it includes violence from anyone the person has or had an intimate or family relationship with, eg romantic partners, grown-up children, flatmates — whether they live with them or not.

A person is affected by domestic violence if:

  • they have experienced domestic violence
  • a child living with them has experienced domestic violence — even if the child doesn’t live with them all the time.
There is no time limit on when the person experienced domestic violence.

There is no time limit on when the person experienced domestic violence.

The abuse may have happened before the person worked for you, or before domestic violence leave laws were introduced.

Leave entitlement

Once they have worked for you for six months in a row or meet the hours worked test, employees are entitled to up to 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave.

The hours worked test is when employees have worked:

  • an average of at least 10 hours a week and
  • at least one hour a week or 40 hours a month.

Once someone is eligible, you must give up to 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave each 12 months. Employees cannot carry forward unused leave. If the person leaves, you don’t need to pay out domestic violence leave that has not been taken.

Employees must tell you they intend to take domestic violence leave as soon as they realistically can.

They might use domestic leave to:

  • get help from a domestic violence support service
  • move house
  • support affected children
  • have counselling.

If an employee needs more than 10 days, or doesn’t qualify, you might allow them to:

  • take annual holiday
  • take leave without pay.

You may decide to give an employee more than 10 days’ paid domestic violence leave.

You don’t have to pay an employee while they are getting weekly ACC payments.

Asking for proof

You can ask your employee for proof to show how they are affected by domestic violence. Be aware domestic abuse often happens behind closed doors and can be difficult to prove. The law expects employee and employer to be open, honest and responsive. You are expected to treat each other in good faith.

Going to the police or applying for a protection order are big steps. The person may not be able to provide police or court documents.

They may be able to provide:

  • a letter or email from a support service
  • report from a doctor or nurse
  • report from a school.

If you ask for proof, you don’t have to pay domestic violence leave until your employee provides it. But if they have a reasonable excuse, eg they have had to move house in a hurry, and didn’t have time to get it, you must still pay.

Case study

Time to get back on track

When Dawn feels her situation at home is too hard, she confides in her boss Fran. Fran gives Dawn four days’ domestic violence leave. Dawn uses the time to stay with her sister in another town and to get specialist help from a domestic violence support agency. 

Back at work, Fran lightens Dawn’s duties and gives her time off for crisis counselling. To help Dawn get safely to and from work in her first week, Fran decides to pay for a cab.

Several months later she approves Dawn’s request to work reduced hours for up to two months. Dawn wants to focus on her daughter, who is lashing out at day care because of what she witnessed at home. Fran agrees to reduce Dawn’s hours and spread them over different days.

Back on her feet and grateful for Fran’s support, Dawn returns to her contracted hours, more committed and engaged. The following year, Fran is happy to give Dawn additional time off. She realises dealing with domestic violence will not be a quick fix, and knows Dawn’s increased confidence and output will more than make up for the days’ paid time off.

Short-term flexible working

You must consider giving people affected by domestic violence permission to work flexibly for up to two months — or more if you wish.

A flexible work arrangement could include: 

  • work hours and days
  • where an employee works
  • an employee’s duties
  • contact details they share with you.

Making a request

Requests for short-term flexible working can come from the employee, or someone asking on their behalf.

It must:

  • be made in writing
  • include the start and end date of the suggested changes
  • indicate how the changes will help the employee deal with the effects of the violence
  • explain what you may have to do to accommodate the changes, eg ask somebody else to cover their work, schedule a weekly meeting on a different day.

Note, all employees can ask for flexible working for any reason, at any time.

Dealing with a request

You have to let your employee know your decision as soon as you can, but you have up to 10 working days to respond. You must respond in writing.

You can ask for proof of how the domestic violence is affecting the person. You must do this no later than three working days after your employee asks to change their work pattern — but it’s a good idea to ask sooner, if possible.

You must give your employee information on specialist support services, eg Family Violence Information Line, Whare Rokiroki (Māori Women’s Refuge), Women’s Refuge, Shine, Safe to Talk. You must do this when you give your employees your decision, or sooner.

Refusing a request

You can only refuse if:

  • the employee doesn’t give you proof, if you ask for it
  • you can’t reasonably accommodate their request.

You may not be able to accommodate their request if:

  • you can’t reorganise work among other staff
  • you’re unable to recruit extra staff to cover hours they ask to be excused from work
  • there isn’t enough work for the person during the hours they’ve asked to work.

Flexible working arrangements

Adverse treatment

Discriminating against people affected by domestic violence — employees or job applicants — is a human rights issue. If a person believes they have been adversely treated they can:

  • raise a personal grievance if they’re an employee
  • complain to the Human Rights Commission if they’re an employee or a job applicant.

Discrimination(external link)  — Employment New Zealand

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