Happy employees are productive employees – and that goes for home life as well as the office environment.
While as an employer it is not possible to control what goes on at the home of your employees, being a supportive employer can go a long way towards fostering productivity and staff loyalty.
New Zealand recently introduced the Domestic Violence Victims; Protection Act, effective from April, 2019, becoming the first country in the world to offer this type of leave for victims of domestic violence as a universal entitlement.
The legislation provides a mechanism for businesses to play their part in supporting the safety and wellbeing of employees who are the victims of domestic violence, and is something we can be proud of as a country.
But what does it mean for employers?
Under the Act, employers must give up to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave each year to employees who qualify.
This leave is in addition to other leave such as annual and sick leave.
Like other leave entitlements, the employee must have worked for you for at least six months in order to qualify for the paid leave.
However, the incident may have occurred previous to that employee being employed by you. Leave can also be taken to support a child who has experienced domestic violence.
Employees affected by domestic violence can also ask for short-term flexible working arrangements lasting up to two months.
The employer may ask for proof, and this may be supplied in the form of a letter or e-mail from either a support organisation or person, a doctor or nurse, school, declaration letter from a JP, or police/court documents.
The law expects both parties to treat each other in good faith. An employee might be able to provide a letter or email from a support service, or a doctor’s or school report, but bear in mind that domestic violence can be difficult to prove, and should be treated with sensitivity.
As an employer, you can choose to offer more than the minimum 10 days, but all arrangements must be recorded in writing regardless of the timeframe. You may also choose to let employees use their annual leave, unpaid leave or the domestic violence leave in advance if need be.
Domestic violence includes violence from anyone that the employee has had an intimate or family relationship with, including romantic partners, grown-up children and flatmates.
It covers physical abuse, sexual abuse and psychological abuse, such as intimidation, damage to property, threats of abuse, financial or economic abuse.
It’s also important as an employer to not only tick the boxes, but foster a culture of support. Think about how you will communicate the new legislation to employees, making it a safe environment in which they feel they can approach you if they need too.
Taking paid leave or keeping flexible hours can give a person the time and space they need to get emotional support and carry out the necessary practicalities such as moving house.
It can be the difference between someone being able to continue in meaningful employment, and finding themselves out of work and out of choices.
In the long run, it more than outweighs the cost to businesses and society as a whole.