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Too many employers still asking for “proof” of domestic violence – Shine

Family violence specialist service Shine is calling on employers to stop asking for proof of domestic violence in order for employees to access domestic violence leave. 

 The call comes five years after the introduction of the Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Act 2018, which provides 10 days of paid domestic violence (DV) leave per year for affected employees. 

Shine’s DVFREE Lead Mira Taitz says that the law has provided an excellent starting point. 

 “The minimum entitlements under the Act have led many employers to think about this issue and to offer employees this support, which is wonderful. 

“But asking for proof that someone has experienced violence is unsafe because often people don’t have any proof beyond their word. They already fear they won’t be believed or will be judged or blamed for their situation.

“The number of people accessing this leave is low, so we need to reduce barriers to support. 

“We call on all employers to look at policy and training, and anything else they can offer in terms of workplace support so that we can all do our part to help.” 

The Act allows employees to request short-term flexible working to deal with the effects of domestic violence and made it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of being affected by domestic violence. It also allows employers to ask for proof. New Zealand is one of a handful of countries leading the way in implementing legislation to offer this leave. 

“Unfortunately, Shine regularly hears of employers who are unaware of their obligations under the Act. Others may fulfil their legal obligations, but fail to do so in a way that provides safe and effective support for employees experiencing family violence,” says Mira Taitz. 

“The number of people accessing DV leave and flexible working is relatively small. For those that do, these entitlements can make an enormous difference to their wellbeing and that of their children, family and whānau. They are all likely to be experiencing significant stress, anxiety, fear and upheaval. 

“Five years on from the introduction of DV leave, Shine is calling on all employers to proactively offer domestic violence leave and flexible working for as long as needed to employees affected by family violence immediately, without requesting proof. 

“Employers should be concerned about the number of affected employees who are reluctant to seek workplace support or ask for paid leave when they need it, because of concerns about being believed, their safety and privacy, and the potential impact on employment opportunities. 

“When people impacted by family violence get support from their workplace, it can make an enormous difference. For so many of us, work provides social connection, wellbeing, a sense of purpose, and financial independence. We have heard from so many people that the workplace support they received was an absolute lifeline. It is a really practical step that employers can take to address the high levels of family violence in Aotearoa New Zealand,” says Mira Taitz.

 

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