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What is the Domestic Violence - Victims' Protection Bill?

What is the Domestic Violence - Victims' Protection Bill?

April 21, 2017

Contacts

Partners Phillipa Muir, John Rooney
Senior Associates Carl Blake, Bronwyn Heenan, Rebecca Rendle

The Domestic Violence - Victims' Protection Bill (Bill) was introduced in March this year to offer greater protection in employment to victims of domestic violence. The Bill is a member's bill, put forward by Jan Logie of the Greens. It passed its first reading in the House with unanimous support from all parties.

The Bill proposes various amendments to:

· Domestic Violence Act 1995;

· Employment Relations Act 2000;

· Health and Safety at Work Act 2015;

· Holidays Act 2003; and

· Human Rights Act 1993.

The Bill introduces the concept of a "domestic violence document", to be used to prove that an employee is a victim of domestic violence. The domestic violence document can include a police report, a record of a police caution, criminal proceedings, a conviction relating to domestic violence, court orders, a medical practitioner report or a report from a domestic violence support organisation.

The Bill defines a victim of domestic violence as anyone who is able to produce a domestic violence document because they have suffered domestic violence, or because they provide care or support to someone in their immediate family or household who suffers domestic violence.

What are the proposed changes?

The Bill introduces several changes to employment legislation. The key changes are outlined below.

Domestic violence leave

The Bill amends the Holidays Act 2003 and introduces up to 10 days' "domestic violence leave" for victims of domestic violence, to be funded by employers. Where the employee has a domestic violence document, employers "must approve" an employee's request for domestic violence leave "as soon as is practicable".

Flexible working for victims of domestic violence

The Bill amends the Employment Relations Act 2000 so that victims of domestic violence can request flexible working arrangements. These arrangements include the hours, days, place, location or duties of an employee's work. Unusually, the requirements under this proposed new part are not as favourable to employees as existing Part 6AA (which deals with flexible working generally). Employees who make a request under the proposed new part will need to have been employed by their employer for at least six months, and not have made a previous flexible working request for at least 12 months. Under the existing Part 6AA, employees can make requests at any time and as frequently as they wish.

Employers can refuse a flexible working request from a victim of domestic violence for several reasons (as is the case in existing Part 6AA). Employers must refuse requests if the employee is bound by a collective agreement, the working arrangements are covered by the collective agreement, and the proposed arrangements would be inconsistent with the collective agreement.

Health and safety requirements

The Bill amends the definition of "hazard" in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to include situations where a person's behaviour stems from being a victim or perpetrator of domestic violence. It also introduces a requirement for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) to have a policy for dealing with hazards that arise in the workplace due to domestic violence. A PCBU must also take all reasonable and practicable steps to provide health and safety representatives with training in supporting workers that are victims of domestic violence.

Prohibited ground of discrimination

Finally, the Bill introduces being a victim of domestic violence as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Watch this space

The Bill will have a substantial impact on both victims of domestic violence and their employers if it becomes law. The Bill is currently at the Select Committee stage, and will be reported back to the House in September. The deadline for submissions is 28 April 2017, and we would be happy to assist you in preparing any submissions you wish to make.

A full copy of the Bill can be found here.

Contributors lucy.harris@simpsongrierson.com


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