An employment lawyer says New Zealand is entering new territory as the Government prepares to roll out a new law to benefit domestic violence victims.

From April 1, victims of domestic violence will be entitled to take 10 days paid leave from work each year or request flexible working conditions under the Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act 2018.

The legislation is an update to current law and will no longer require employees to provide proof to access entitlements, though, employers will have provisions to ask for it.

New Zealand will join Australia which generally offers five days unpaid leave each year in most states and Canada, Ontario, with five days paid leave and up to 10 days unpaid leave for victims of abuse - psychologically, physically, sexually.


Employment lawyer and member of the Auckland District Law Society, Catherine Stewart, said employers will enter a new territory when the legislation comes into effect next month.

Stewart believes the move is positive and will be crucial to limit the effects of domestic abuse by allowing victims to retain employment.

There are however grey areas in the act, she said, such as how much detail and information employees will be required to share with employers, who in the organisation is entitled to know and how it is recorded.

Alan McDonald, Employers and Manufacturers Association general manager of advocacy, said managing privacy properly would be a challenge for employers.

He said businesses were unsure of how the act would be applied in the workplace.

One issue members raised was how employers would code domestic violence leave on a pay slip so that a partner who may be carrying out the violence does not know they are on such leave.

Another issue raised was who in the business gets to know about the situation.

There were also concerns over staff who would try to take advantage of it, he said.


"If you look at it accumulatively, you have holiday pay, sick leave, you may have someone on maternity leave and now you have 10 days domestic violence leave as well... that puts quite a burden on the small to medium employer," he said.

"Accumulatively, that's quite a lot for a small business to swallow."

McDonald said the take-up rates overseas were very low, at around 0.4 per cent.

"We have an appalling record in New Zealand on domestic violence, one of the worst in the world, and so there's quite a lot there for our employers to digest and because it is sensitive you do need to handle it properly," he said.

Stewart said the legislation offered positive gains, including lower staff turnover and may reduce recruitment costs.

"New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world and this is a really positive step in helping victims."

The Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act will affect the Employment Relations Act, Holidays Act and Human Rights Act. While it does not specifically mention the Privacy Act, there are 12 parts that apply to how it is managed.

"It is quite complex in terms what your obligations are and to implement it," McDonald said.