VICTIMS of domestic violence can now claim up to 10 days paid leave and short-term flexible working arrangements from employers.
The new law came into effect yesterday and is covered under the Human Rights Act 1993.
According to the law, an employee is entitled to domestic violence leave after six months’ continuous employment. Employees can take up to 10 days leave each year and must notify their employer as early as possible before doing so. An employee cannot roll over any unused entitlement into the next year.
A request can be made no matter how long ago the domestic violence event occurred, even if the employee was not working for the employer at that time. However, an employer may request proof of domestic violence.
Domestic violence leave is expected to be treated like sick leave, meaning entitlement can be used throughout the year for the same incident.
According to a report by Law Link, a network of 17 law firms from around New Zealand, the law was clear that leave could be taken no matter how long ago the domestic violence occurred.
“It is therefore possible an employee can also use subsequent entitlements in later years.
However, these are questions that may need to be clarified by the courts,” Law Link stated.
Law Link encouraged employers and employees to be proactive and communicative about leave arrangements, including special circumstances of each request. They said useful matters to discuss would include how much leave was initially requested, whether the employee anticipated taking more leave in the future, and whether there was any other support or assistance that the employer could give.
Another aspect of the law change is to allow employees affected by domestic violence to request a short-term variation to their working arrangements. This is like flexible working requests already available to employees, although there are tighter deadlines on employers to respond, and arrangements are limited to not longer than two months.
Law Link also said that employee safety at work should also be considered if an employer was made aware of a domestic violence incident.
“While not of itself a workplace event, domestic violence may nevertheless impact on employee safety at work,” they said.
The group said some employers would be concerned the changes would be unaffordable.
“The Warehouse, which has voluntarily implemented paid domestic violence leave, has found the cost was there anyway because often the victims will take time off sick repeatedly, and were actually unproductive at work,” Law Link said.
“One benefit to employers is by providing leave and flexible arrangements to help employees resolve issues at home, employees will be back to work and full productivity sooner.”