How to support your staff with family violence leave

Published 8 August 2023 | 2 min read

Guiding New Zealand managers in navigating family violence leave

In the tapestry of business, small-to-medium enterprises in New Zealand are the threads that weave the nation's economic fabric. As leaders of these enterprises, you're accustomed to juggling challenges and seeking solutions. But have you ever stopped to consider how your organisation can support employees facing family violence? It's a concern that affects not only the individual but also the productivity and well-being of your entire team. If you're grappling with the complexities of family violence leave and the quest for "proof," this guide is your compass.

The Domestic Violence – Victims Protection Act 2018 heralds a new era in addressing family violence within the workplace. It's a call for you to be proactive, an invitation to stand beside your staff when they need it most. Yet, the path can seem convoluted, particularly when dealing with the notion of requesting "proof" of family violence.

This Act introduces three pivotal facets that extend to employees who are victims of family violence or who are supporting a child in such circumstances:

  1. Ten Days Paid Leave: Employees are entitled to ten days of paid leave, distinct from annual, sick, or bereavement leave.
  2. Flexible Working Arrangements: Employees can request short-term flexible working setups for up to two months.
  3. Protection from Adverse Treatment: Employees have the right to be treated fairly despite their family violence situation.

However, the terrain becomes rugged when it comes to demanding "proof" of family violence. While it's natural to seek validation, family violence is a complex, multidimensional issue often hidden from view. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Employment New Zealand encourages both parties to act in good faith, prioritizing transparency, honesty, and swift responses. But, the ambiguity of "proof" and "reasonable excuse" in the legislation adds to the complexity.

When treading the "proof" path, it's vital to adopt a compassionate approach. Family violence doesn't wear a single face – it's a tapestry of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, often veiled from the world. Research reveals that over 67% of family violence incidents in New Zealand go unreported. Privacy and shame silence victims, even in the workplace. In such instances, consider alternative forms of evidence, such as support letters from friends or colleagues.

Nurturing a secure and supportive workplace

Upon receiving a request for family violence leave or flexible arrangements, embrace it with empathy. Fostering a supportive work environment enhances productivity and encourages employees to seek assistance. Remember, a mere 0.5% of employees requested paid family violence leave over a two-year span. The risk of abuse is slim, but the opportunity to protect victims is vast.

Reaching out for guidance

You don't have to navigate this journey alone. New Zealand offers resources like Women's Refuge, Shine, and 1737 for immediate help and guidance. Our employment team is here to guide you through family violence leave requests and flexible working arrangements.

Family violence: where to get help or refer others

  • Women’s Refuge: 0800 733 843.
  • Shine: (Free call) 0508 744 633 between 9am and 11pm (for men and women).
  • 1737, Need to talk?: (Free call or text) 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor.
  • Kidsline: 0800 54 37 54 for people up to 18 years old. Open 24/7.
  • What’s Up: 0800 942 8787 (for 5 to 18-year-olds). Phone counselling available Monday-Friday, noon-11pm and weekends, 3pm-11pm. Online chat is available 3pm-10pm daily.
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633, free text 234, email, or find online chat and other support options here.
    If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 111.

Sexual violence: where to get help or refer others


Lane Neave. (n.d.). How to Handle "Proof" of Family Violence.

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