Family violence, also known as domestic violence, is a major human rights issue throughout the world, a crime in New Zealand and does not operate separately to employment. It has no boundaries and doesn’t just stay at home. Perpetrators of such violence have been known to continue the violence whilst the victim is at work, through phone calls, texts, emails, or coming to the workplace.
According to Women’s Refuge, women in violent relationships often have trouble holding down jobs, with domestic violence affecting all areas of the victim’s life, including physical and mental health, emotional wellbeing and financial status.
Statistics from NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse, shows 23 adults and 9 children are killed annually in New Zealand through family violence, with an investigation into family violence occurring every 5 minutes. Yet 76% of family violence offences are not reported to the police.
With such high statistics, it’s surprising how few employers have a policy to support their employees impacted by domestic violence. This will now need to change, with ignorance of the issue no longer being an excuse for employers.
New Employer Obligations
The Domestic Violence Victim’s Protection Act 2018 comes into force on 1 April 2019, placing obligations on employers to support employees who are, or may have been, a victim of family violence. This includes situations where the employee may have perpetrated the violence.
Under the Act, employees can request short term variations to their working arrangements at any time, even if the domestic violence occurred prior to the employee being employed by their current employer. Employers have an obligation to consider these requests and respond within set timeframes.
The employee is also given additional leave entitlements under the Act, where they will be able to claim up to 10 days’ domestic violence leave in each entitlement year, following 6 months’ current continuous employment with their employer. This leave is to be paid by the employer.
The Act also creates a new ground for unlawful discrimination, making it unlawful for an employer to treat the employee adversely, or to make an implied or overt threat to treat the employee adversely, due to being the victim, or perpetrator, of domestic violence.
Employers also need to provide employees with information on family violence support services that are available to them, should they require this.
Work will need to be done by employers on ensuring their workplace culture is one where employees are not afraid or embarrassed to tell their manager or HR about any domestic violence concerns, and where flexibility is made to allow the employee to deal with the issue. A good place to start is developing a domestic violence policy, stressing the employer’s acknowledgement that domestic violence does occur, can impact the workplace, and outlining what the employer will do to support their employees.
We’re here to help. At POD we can assist you with developing a policy to support your employees, whilst meeting your legal obligations. We can also offer advice on additional points you may wish to consider, how to respond to concerns raised by employees and point you in the right direction to access support services for your employees. We will also be running a workshop in February where you can learn more about your obligations and get better equipped on how to support your employees. Contact the team here.