Employment law update: Proposed new domestic violence law to impact employment law

Isabella Broadbent

Having passed its first reading and now at the Select Committee stage, a new Bill proposing to enhance legal protections for victims of domestic violence would see changes made to various acts including the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA), Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), Holidays Act 2003 (HA) and the Human Rights Act 1993 (HRA). These changes would affect all employers.

If enacted in its current form, the Bill, currently known as the “Domestic Violence - Victims' Protection Bill” would:

  1. enable employees who are victims of domestic violence to seek flexible working arrangements;
  2. allow such employees to request paid domestic violence leave of up to 10 days' per year;
  3. add a new prohibited ground of discrimination under both the ERA and HRA (being a victim of domestic violence); and
  4. amend the definition of “hazard” in the HSWA such that that a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must, in taking all practicable steps to ensure that workers are not exposed to hazards, address the hazard of a worker suffering domestic violence. To this end, PCBUs would also be required to:
    1. have policies on handling situations arising from the hazard of a worker suffering domestic violence; and
    2. take all practicable steps to ensure that any health and safety representatives receive training in supporting workers who are victims of domestic violence.

The Bill aims to recognise the workplace as a primary place for intervention in the lives of victims of domestic violence, and seeks to create a system enabling businesses to respond effectively, supporting victims to stay in paid employment, maintaining productivity and reducing recruitment and training costs for employers.

There are still a number of stages to go through before the Bill is enacted, and we could well see some important changes made to its provisions.  One area of focus will no doubt be the level of compliance costs, and the potential impact on small and medium businesses.   However given the support indicated by the government thus far it seems likely that the Bill will be enacted in some form, and that the law will be asking employers to do more to address this issue.

If you would like to know more or to discuss how these potential changes may affect your business, please contact any member of our employment team.

 

Isabella Broadbent & Geoff Bevn