New Bill protects domestic violence victims

It is no secret that New Zealand has a domestic violence problem. Its effects are felt within families, communities and the workplace.

Yesterday the Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill passed its third reading in Parliament, and is set to become legislation.  These changes will come into force on 1 April 2019.

The Bill acknowledges the harm experienced by victims of domestic violence from a workplace perspective. The Bill seeks to amend several key pieces of legislation to support victims to stay in paid employment. The idea is that, by securing their employment, victims will be able to maintain better domestic and economic stability which will assist them to find a pathway out of violence and to successfully rebuild their lives.

Read the bill in its current form.

What does the Bill propose to do?

The Bill proposes to amend three separate Acts with a view to enhancing legal protections for victims of domestic violence: the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA), the Holidays Act 2003 (HA) and the Human Rights Act 1993 (HRA).

The key proposed amendments include:

  1. Introducing short-term flexible working arrangements for employees who are victims of domestic violence in the ERA;
  2. Amending the ERA and HRA to make it unlawful to treat employees who are victims of domestic violence adversely; and
  3. Introducing paid domestic violence leave (up to 10 days annually) under the HA.

Initially, the Bill also sought to expand the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination under the ERA and HRA to include victims of domestic violence, and sought to place certain duties on PCBUs under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to protect victims of domestic violence. However, these proposed amendments were removed from the Bill following the review of the Committee of the whole House on 27 June 2018.

What does this mean for your organisation?

Organisations will be required to implement changes to ensure that victims of domestic violence are appropriately protected in their employment.

This will include updating existing flexible working arrangement policies and making changes within organisations to ensure victims of domestic violence are not treated adversely. Of course, the Bill will not prevent organisations from taking additional steps to protect victims of domestic violence in other ways (e.g. counselling, alternative workplaces, training staff to support victims, or offering victims further time off work).

While the Bill’s purpose is admirable – in that it seeks to change the way employers think about domestic violence – there will be an associated financial cost to implement these changes. This is likely to be felt more keenly by smaller organisations.

Between now and 1 April 2019, employers should look to ensure appropriate policies and practices are put in place before that time.

If you would like further information on how these changes may affect you, our team would be happy to assist.

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