Domestic Violence, role of the employer

24 April 2019

Statistics tell us Police respond to a family violence incident every 5 minutes on average, and 76% of these incidents also go unreported.

As the Employer you now have a duty and role to play if any of your staff become victims of domestic violence, or are the primary care giver for victims of the same.

Now with a framework of employer paid support in workplaces it's likely that most businesses will experience the issue first hand at some point. Businesses need to be ready, managers need to know what to do.

From a compliance point of view you don't actually have to amend your employment agreements at all. Domestic Violence Leave is law and cannot be contracted out of, so much in the same way as other types of leave you don't actually need to mention it in the agreement unless you are proposing to offer more support over and above the legal minimum.

We do, however, strongly recommend the implementation of a policy.

Policy in this instance will be far more helpful to all parties concerned. A policy outlines options and potential outcomes at a time when victims will need the most support. Policy is also far easier to update if required than employment agreements.

The policy will be unique to your club and should address how the employer will support employees who are affected by family violence, staff training, who will be responsible and any plans that you will put in place to assist and support the employee.

Payroll

A frequently asked question currently is 'what do we show on the payslip'. Obviously this will be limited by the capability of functionality from your payroll software. Clearly you need to be tracking the use of the leave, but hopefully software providers give you flexibility on payslip outputs. One of the aims of the new legislation is to ensure victims aren't disadvantaged, so printing 'Domestic Violence Leave' on a payslip would be undesirable if it falls into the wrong hands or is required by the victim as proof of income for whatever reason.

Evidence

Employers may ask for evidence on any occasion as proof of a domestic violence incident. This may not be as easy as it sounds, particularly as the new Act allows leave claims for instances of domestic violence prior to their employment with the current employer (although they only qualify for this leave type after having worked for the employer for 6 months).

What would normally constitute evidence are documentation from; Police, Courts, family violence or support groups, schools, doctors, nurses or statutory declarations. But employers need to be flexible and open minded when it comes to this issue.

Employers have a duty to keep employee information private and confidential, this includes applications for leave and supporting evidence they may provide. Employers are only not prevented from disclosing such information if required by law or if necessary to protect life or in respect to protection of the Health & Safety of workers.

Clubs New Zealand's employment agreements are currently being updated for domestic violence leave and these will be loaded onto the Clubs New Zealand website shortly.

(SOURCE: Employer Assistance, www.employers.co.nz)

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