How new domestic violence laws will change the workplace

Original Article: Julia Shallcrass, NZ Herald | March 25, 2019

New Zealand's upcoming employment law changes will require employers to provide support to survivors of family violence.

Family violence is one of New Zealand's most prevalent social problems, with an estimated half a million victims, and the highest rate of reported violence towards women in the developed world.

Research shows that half of all workplaces are affected by family violence, with a significant impact on safety and productivity. It is estimated to cost New Zealand businesses more than $368 million annually.

While an important human rights issue, addressing family violence also makes good business sense. Providing a safe and supportive environment for affected staff reduces absenteeism and turnover, and improves productivity and morale.

New legislation requiring support for victims

From 1 April 2019, new legislation will require all New Zealand employers to help employees affected by domestic violence.

The Domestic Violence – Victims' Protection Act 2018 aims to improve legal protection for victims of family violence, through paid domestic violence leave and extension of flexible working arrangements.

The legislation will amend the Holidays Act 2003, the Human Rights Act 1993, and the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Upcoming changes from 1 April include:

• Employees affected by domestic violence will be entitled to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave per year, so they can deal with the effects of domestic violence. 
• Employees affected by domestic violence can request a short-term variation to their working arrangements, such as to their hours of work, location and duties. 
• Employers will not be allowed to treat an employee adversely in their employment on the grounds that they are, or are suspected to be, a person affected by domestic violence.

Businesses supporting staff

Many New Zealand workplaces have taken the initiative to support staff affected by family violence.

Seven of New Zealand's largest employers, including the Warehouse Group and ANZ have worked alongside the Human Rights Commission to draft a family violence policy. It is available to all employers at the website "Business Working to End Family Violence".

Employers can help support survivors of family violence by implementing workplace policies, and providing education and access to counselling services.

The Warehouse Group

The Warehouse Group's successful initiative Family Violence – It's Not OK supports victims of family violence and encourages those affected to seek help.

The initiative was developed in partnership with the Women's Refuge and White Ribbon

NZ to help staff affected by family violence to retain employment, and rebuild their lives.

The Warehouse Group's Family Violence developed a policy, which allows employees ten days' paid leave to deal with the effects of domestic violence. Unpaid leave is offered to staff using family violence to support them in making changes.

"Violence can be a challenging subject, so we give our managers comprehensive support," says Richard Parker, General Manager of People Experience and Employment Relations.

Managers are given a poster known as a "cheat sheet", reminding them what to say and do if an employee discloses that they are experiencing family violence.

All resources, including the cheat sheet and Family Violence policy, are freely available for other businesses to use at this website.


The ANZ bank promotes and protects safety of staff and the community from domestic violence.

"We work with staff members on an individual basis to protect them from the effects of domestic violence," says Gina McJorrow, the Senior HR Business Manager.

ANZ provides paid leave and offers a range of options to help employees, including changing an employee's email address to curtail cyberbullying, or providing physical security on site. With offices nationwide, ANZ can also help staff relocate by transferring their role to another branch.

ANZ also works alongside Women's Refuge to help women in the community gain financial independence and escape domestic violence.

By making account opening procedures more flexible, ANZ allows women to access emergency accounts, where there is a missing ID or they have no permanent address.

The Pacific Community

The Pacific Community, a scientific and technical development organisation with 26 member countries from the region, promotes the elimination of violence against women.

The organisation participates in the annual global campaign 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence to create awareness on domestic violence throughout the Pacific.

"Violence against women is a major development challenge for the Pacific," says Leon

Takimoana, the Manager of Human Resources and Organisational Development.

"Two out of three women in the Pacific will experience some form of violence in their lifetime."

The Pacific Community takes a preventative approach to protect its staff and the community from family violence. Its domestic violence policy includes paid leave to deal with the effects of domestic violence, and the temporary relocation of staff at risk of family violence.

More information

For more information on the new legislation and support for victims of family violence, see KiwiBoss' webinar through CCH Learning on 27 March 2019 and on demand:

Employer Compliance with Domestic Violence – Victims' Protection Act