Employees now entitled to domestic violence leave

From 1 April 2019, employees are entitled to domestic violence leave. The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill (Bill) has come in to force. The key changes that employers should know about are:

  • Employees affected by domestic violence are entitled to 10 days paid domestic violence leave each year.
  • Employees can also request short term (up to two months) flexible working arrangements if they are affected by domestic violence.
  • There is now a new form of discrimination under the Human Rights Act 2003 – it is illegal to treat an employee affected by domestic violence adversely.
  • There is a new ground for a personal grievance – an employee may raise a personal grievance if they have been treated adversely if the employer believes the employee “is or is suspected or assumed or believed to be a person affected by domestic violence”.

These amendments recognise the significant impact of domestic violence on many people and the need to support affected employees in dealing with it. From a practical perspective, a few things employers should consider include:

  • Employment agreements: these don’t need to specifically refer to domestic violence leave, but you may wish to consider whether to include reference to it for consistency and clarity (including the new ground for a personal grievance).
  • Policies: again, you don’t need one, but you might wish to outline employee entitlements, processes for applying for domestic violence leave or flexible working arrangements, and how the organisation deals with such requests (given the sensitive nature of these).
  • Leave requests: consider how affected employees apply for leave. A request can be made at any time, regardless of how long ago the domestic violence occurred. Employers can only refuse requests on certain grounds, as set out in the Act.
  • Proof: employers are entitled to ask for proof, but what type of proof is appropriate and when should it be requested?
  • Privacy: consider how employee privacy is to be protected, particularly given how sensitive this type of leave is. For example, avoiding recording domestic violence leave on pay slips or personnel files.
  • Health and safety: while not a workplace event, consider whether there are any health and safety implications of the employee disclosing their domestic violence which may impact their work or the workplace. For example, fatigue, stress, shock, or mental or physical injuries.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to consider how this may affect your organisation and, if necessary, make any required changes to reflect this new law.

Workplace Law team

If you have any queries in respect of the above, or any other Workplace Law issues, please contact a member of Lane Neave’s Workplace Law team:

Employment: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan, Gwen DrewittMaria Green,  Hannah Martin, Joseph HarropHolly StruckmanAlex Beal, Giuliana Petronelli, Abby Shieh
Immigration: Mark Williams, Rachael Mason, Daniel Kruger, Nicky Robertson, Julia StrickettKen Huang, Mary Zhou, Shi Sheng Cai (Shoosh)Sarah Kirkwood, Janeske SchutteLingbo Yu
ACC: Andrew Shaw
Health and Safety: Andrew ShawFiona McMillan

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