Extra leave proposed for victims of violence

New research by Women's Refuge showed that domestic violence negatively impacts victims in the workplace and should be considered a workplace hazard. Photo: Getty Images
New research by Women's Refuge showed that domestic violence negatively impacts victims in the workplace and should be considered a workplace hazard. Photo: Getty Images

Parliament will this week debate whether domestic violence victims should get extra paid leave, as the Women's Refuge presents new research showing the impact of abuse on victims in the workplace.

Green MP Jan Logie's private member's bill will have its first reading on Wednesday. If passed into law, it would classify domestic violence as a workplace hazard and allow victims to take up to 10 days' additional leave.

National has indicated it will oppose the bill, but the Government's support partners the Act Party and the Maori Party say they will support it,so it could pass its first hurdle.

Ahead of the debate, the Women's Refuge released figures on the impact of abuse on people's employment. Chief executive Ang Jury said it was not just compassionate for employers to provide support to victims, it also made economic sense.

An unscientific survey of 450 people found 60.1% of victims were in full-time employment before they entered an abusive relationship, but just 27.5% remained in work during the relationship.

That figure rose to just 34% once they had left the relationship.

Ms Logie said it was common for abusers to exercise control over victims by either directly or indirectly stopping them from working.

"If they are at work and having an income and having work colleagues who may be supportive then it's a common thing for the abuser to want to break that relationship and increase the dependence."

She said the anecdotal evidence unearthed in the Women's Refuge study was backed by a 2014 paper commissioned by the Public Service Association, which found the cost of lost productivity related to domestic abuse was $368m a year.

Support for the bill has come from human rights groups and employers.

Business NZ has said the bill warrants further consideration. It said the New Zealand businesses which were already offering domestic violence leave were larger employers, and it wanted to hear more from small businesses about the potential costs of a law change.

The Warehouse, ANZ, and Countdown are among companies offering a form of specialised leave.

Ms Logie said the Government should be leading on the issue.

"It shouldn't be luck whether you've got an employer who understands and has got these policies in place. It should be an even playing field across the country."

Prime Minister Bill English has previously said the Government would not support the bill because there was nothing to stop employers from offering extra paid leave.

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse has said he is sympathetic to the bill's purpose but warned there would be significant costs attached to it.

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