Frequently Asked Questions

FAQS – FAMILY VIOLENCE AND THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT  

An introduction to Family violence, Human Rights, and other law 

In New Zealand, the terms family violence and domestic violence are interchangeable and refer to all forms of violence in family and intimate relationships. 

Family violence is a range of behaviours that are used to dominate or control a person within an intimate or family relationship. It includes physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Family violence is often a pattern of controlling behaviour made up of a number of acts over time which may seem trivial individually but result in the person feeling afraid and controlled.    

Family violence is a crime. It is not a private matter.

Employers also have duties to support employees who have experienced family violence. 

Employers must not treat employees or job applicants badly because they have experienced family violence or the employer thinks they have. 

Employment law also allows employees to request variations to their working arrangements to deal with the effects of family violence. The variation can include changes to hours of work, location, and duties of work. 

Employees can also take up to 10 days of paid family violence leave a year, to deal with the effects of family violence. Usually, the employee would need to work for the employer for more than six months to be entitled to this leave.  

The purpose of the following questions and answers is to provide employees and employers with information to help them understand the protections under the law and seek help. 

1) In a job interview, can I ask a job applicant if they are or have been affected by family violence?

No. It is illegal to treat an employee or job applicant badly because they are affected by family violence or because you think they are. You therefore should not ask a job applicant if they are affected by family violence. If you do so and then do not offer the applicant the job (or if you treat them adversely in other ways) because of their experience of family violence, they could complain to the Human Rights Commission., who provides a free and confidential dispute resolution service. 

2) Do I have to disclose that I am experiencing family violence if asked by my employer?

No, you do not have to disclose your personal situation to an employer or prospective employer. And they must not disadvantage you if you decline to answer. It is unlawful for them to treat you adversely because of not disclosing. 

However, employers can request information from you about your experience with family violence if you wish to apply for leave or a variation to your working arrangements. The Commission encourages a sensible approach to the request for information because of the sensitivity of the family violence and risks.  

3) Will my contact with the Human Rights Commission be kept confidential?

Yes, the Human Rights Commission must maintain your privacy and confidentiality. However, under the Privacy Act, information may be shared to address a serious threat to someone’s health or safety. 

You may choose to let your employer know about your contact with the Commission or support agencies. However, it is unlawful for your employer to treat you adversely because of your contact.

4) I feel my employer is restricting my opportunities at work because I am affected by family violence. What can I do?

I feel my employer is restricting my opportunities at work because I am affected by family violence. What can I do? (shared FAQ) 

Your employer is not allowed to treat you adversely because you are affected by family violence, or because they think you might be. They are also not allowed to threaten to treat you badly because of your family violence experience. 

You can complain to the Human Rights Commission.  

You can also raise a personal grievance with your employer and seek similar services to the Commission from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

5) Where can I get more information about family violence leave and flexible working? 

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has more information on their website or you can call them on 0800 20 90 20. 

6) Where else can you go for help/advice/training? 

A range of organisations are available to help. 

You should always contact the Police if your personal safety is at risk - emergency dial 111.

The family violence helplines below can be helpful to talk through your particular situation, and get advice on options and further local services that may be able to support you. These include: 

  • Family Violence Information Line0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz

This helpline is answered seven days a week, from 9am to 11pm. The Line is part of the Ministry of Social Development ‘It's not OK’ campaign to reduce family violence in New Zealand. The line provides self-help information and connects people to services. The website also provides information about family violence and where to go for help.

  • Women’s Refuge 0800 743 833 www.womensrefuge.org.nz

Women’s Refuge helpline is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Women’s Refuge works with women and children to provide advocacy, safety plans, emergency accommodation, and ongoing support for those affected by family violence and their family members. Women’s Refuge also provides training for organisations to learn more about and improve their policies on family violence. 

  • SHINE 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz 

Shine’s Helpline is answered every day of the year from 9am to 11pm. The Helpline provides support, information, help with risk assessment and safety planning and referrals to local services. Shine supports adult and child (of any gender) affected by family violence to become safe. Shine also works with men who have perpetrated family violence to motivate and support behaviour change. Shine provides a range of domestic violence training programmes. Shine’s DVFREE programme, provides policy consultation and workplace domestic violence training.