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Attention all Employers!

There are a number of important legislative changes coming into effect early this year that Employers will need to be aware of.  In particular: 

From 1 April 2019, employees who are affected by domestic violence will be entitled to take up to 10 days’ paid leave each year.  For an employee to qualify for domestic violence leave they must be affected by domestic violence and must have worked continuously for the employer for a period of 6 months.  If they haven’t worked continuously for the employer, but have on average worked a specified number of hours across a period of 6 months, then the employee may still qualify for domestic violence leave. 

The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Act 2018 also allows an employee affected by domestic violence to apply for a short term variation to their working arrangement.  The employer may decline a request to vary working arrangements if the request cannot be reasonably accommodated on certain non-accommodation grounds.    When considering such an application, the employer is required to follow the steps prescribed by the Act.   Other changes in the Act include a statutory prohibition on employers treating an employee adversely on the ground that the employee is, or is suspected or assumed or believed to be, a person affected by domestic violence.  In circumstances where an employee has been treated adversely, they may raise a personal grievance in the Employment Relations Authority or an unlawful discrimination claim in the Human Rights Tribunal. 

A person affected by domestic violence includes a person who is living with a child who is or has been the subject of domestic violence.  Domestic violence is defined in the Domestic Violence Act 1995 as meaning violence against that person by any other person with whom that person is, or has been, in a domestic relationship.  Violence is broadly defined to include physical, sexual or psychological abuse. 

From 6 May 2019 an employer must provide an employee with rest and meals breaks at times prescribed by the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018.  Limited exceptions apply to this.  This means that employers whose agreements still allow for the parties to set the length and time of their rest and meal breaks, or for compensation to be provided if rest and meal breaks cannot be accommodated, will likely be affected by this change. 

From 6 May 2019 only small to medium sized businesses employing fewer than 20 employees can ultilise 90 day trial period provisions in their employment contracts. 

The above changes will have an impact on most employers.  To ensure that your employment agreements remain compliant with the forthcoming changes, we recommend that you have them reviewed.  Alternatively, if you would like more information about your obligations and rights, particularly when considering the new domestic violence leave provisions, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our employment lawyers for assistance.

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