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Family violence victims: Asking for short-term flexibility

Asking your employer for changes to help you deal with family violence

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 69AB-69ABK

If you’ve been affected by family violence, you have the right to ask your employer for a short-term change to your working arrangements (up to two months), to help you deal with the effects of the violence.

You have this right whether the violence is still going on now or whether it happened sometime in the past (even if it was before you started this current job). You also have this right if your child – rather than you yourself – is a victim of family violence.

Your employer can refuse only if:

  • they can’t reasonably accommodate the changes you need – that is, they can’t reasonably fit the changes into the business’s operations, or
  • they’ve asked you to provide proof of the family violence and you haven’t provided it within 10 working days after they asked for it.

You have to put your request in writing. You’ll need to say:

  • how long you want the new arrangements to last for (which can be up to two months)
  • how you think this will help you deal with the effects of the violence, and
  • what changes you think your employer may need to make in their business if they agree to your request.

You can use the request form that’s provided on the government’s Employment New Zealand website, go to www.employment.govt.nz and search “short-term flexible working”.

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 69ABB(3)

Note: Asking for flexibility as a victim of family violence doesn’t stop you also asking for longer-term or permanent changes to your work arrangements using the rights that apply to all employees, as explained in the previous section.

When, where and what: What work changes can I ask for as a family violence victim?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 69AAA,

If you’ve been affected by family violence, you can ask your employer for changes to:

  • when you work – your hours or days of work
  • where you work – your place of work (for example, if you want to work at home, or some other place that’s different from where your employer is based), and
  • what you do – the particular tasks you do at work
  • other aspects of your work – like which of your contact details you give your employer (to keep yourself safe you may need to keep your current home address secret).

Do I have to give proof of the family violence?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 69ABEA

Your boss can require you to provide proof of the violence if you’ve asked for short-term work flexibility to help you deal with the effects of family violence. The law doesn’t say what kind of proof you need to give, but the government’s Employment New Zealand website says the proof can take any form, go to www.employment.govt.nz and search “domestic violence leave”.

For example, it could be an official court or police document, like a Protection Order from the Family Court. Employment NZ says it could also be something less official – for example, a letter from a family violence support service or a support person, or a report from a doctor or nurse.

If your employer wants proof, they have to tell you this within three working days after you make your request.

What your employer must do after you ask for flexibility as a family violence victim

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 69ABE, 69ABF

If you’ve asked for work flexibility as a victim of family violence, your employer must respond to your request within 10 working days after they receive it.

They must tell you in writing what their decision is. If they refuse your request, they have to give you the reasons.

Your employer can only refuse your request on one of a number of set grounds. These include, for example, that:

  • they wouldn’t be able to reorganise your work among the other staff
  • the arrangement would have a negative effect on work quality or work performance
  • there wouldn’t be work available for you to do during the times you propose to work
  • the arrangements would cost more.

Your employer can’t refuse your request just because you’re covered by a collective employment agreement and the flexible working arrangements would be inconsistent with the agreement.

Can I challenge my employer’s decision if they refuse my request as a victim of family violence?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 69AAG-69AAK

Yes, you can go to a labour inspector and, if necessary, to the Employment Relations Authority if your employer refuses your request unreasonably – for example, if they say the changes would harm the quality of your work and you disagree with that.

You can also challenge the employer’s response if they haven’t followed the right process in responding to your request – for example, if they just ignore your request without responding at all, or if they refuse without saying why.

To challenge the employer’s response, you should first contact a labour inspector for help. The labour inspector can refer the dispute to the free mediation service.

If mediation doesn’t resolve it, you may be able to apply to the Employment Relations Authority (see the chapter “Resolving employment problems”). If the Authority agrees that your employer has breached the requirements, it can order them to pay you a penalty of up to $2,000.

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