Family Violence – Employment Rights

Family violence can impact many different areas of life, including employment.  It is therefore important that we are aware of the rights and responsibilities in regard to family violence in the context of employment.

Family violence can be physical, sexual or psychological and encapsulates all violence in family and intimate relationships. Family violence is an extremely prevalent issue in New Zealand with research suggesting 1 in 3 women have been a victim of family violence in their lifetime.

The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Act, which came into force on 1 April 2019, offers more legal protections at work for people affected by family violence. The Act also works to create awareness of family violence as both a personal and a workplace issue.

In general, employees who have been employed in their job for at least six months have the right to take up to 10 days paid leave for family violence reasons in one year. During those 6 months the employee must have worked either 1 hour each week or 40 hours each month. This leave can also be taken to support a child who is a victim of family violence, so long the child lives with you some of the time. This leave can help to alleviate some of the stress associated with family violence. Victims may use this time to reach out for help, move houses, support their children and take any other actions necessary.

Victims of family violence may also ask their employer for short-term flexible work arrangements. For example, you may ask to work different hours or from a different location. These options can last up to 2 months and may only be refused if the employer cannot reasonably accommodate these changes. Employees must make these requests in writing and their employer must respond as soon as possible, at the latest within 10 working days.

Employees must give their employers notice as soon as possible if needing to take family violence leave. Somewhat controversially, employers can ask for proof that the employee is affected by family violence, unless the employee has a ‘reasonable excuse’. Employers can accept any type of proof that an employee is being impacted by family violence. For example, a report from a doctor or nurse, a letter from a support person, any police documents about the family violence etc.

Importantly, employers must not treat their employees negatively because they may be affected by family violence. This adverse treatment is unlawful under the Employment Relations Act and the Human Rights Act.

Having these kinds of safeguards in place ensures victims feel supported and are better equipped to leave abusive situations. They also work to establish healthier, more equal and supportive workplaces where employees are able to thrive.

If you need advice about anything in relation to family violence, be it employment rights, separation, property disputes etc., please do not hesitate to reach out to our team. We are available to support you through this difficult time.


Anna Graham