Draft Bill to bring protection to the workplace for victims of domestic violence

Draft Bill to bring protection to the workplace for victims of domestic violence

June 1, 2017

The Human Rights Commission recently submitted on Green Party MP Jan Logie’s Domestic Violence Protection Bill that seeks to create a system where businesses can better support victims of family violence.

Domestic Violence is one of the biggest human rights issues facing New Zealand. In 2015 alone, there were over 110,000 domestic violence callouts or one every five minutes for Police. With an estimated 41% of domestic violence victims in paid work, the work place is a vital place to offer intervention.

“Workplaces have a huge role to play in addressing this issue and there are already a number of businesses who have put active family violence policies in place to do that. This bill has the potential to enable all New Zealand workplaces to offer their staff this much-needed support,” Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue says.

The Commission recently provided a submission to the Justice & Electoral Select Committee on the Domestic Violence – Victim’s Protection Bill. The submission outlined the Commission’s support of the Bill, which gives employees the right to ask for 10 days leave if they are a victim of domestic violence and the right to vary their working conditions. The submission also raised a number of suggested adjustments to the draft including:

· Employers have a shorter time frame for making interim decisions on short term urgent requests for a variation in working arrangements

· Requirement that employers deal with requests as confidentially as possible

· The Bill requires a formal “domestic violence document” be produced as proof. We asked that a less formal level of documentation is produced

· The Bill provides protection from discrimination by employers against victims of domestic violence

· Removal of a requirement that people be employed for 6 months before becoming entitled to ask for domestic violence leave or a variation in working conditions

“There are many policies and protections in place for victims of domestic violence but none that safe guard and support people in the work place. This Bill, if enacted, will bring about historic change in New Zealand work places,” Dr Blue says.

“Since submitting, a Supplementary Order Paper has been released that has picked up many of these suggested changes, which is a fantastic result. We look forward to making an oral submission in due course.

“I have been advocating for some time for businesses to have domestic violence policies in place. Research shows that victims of domestic violence find it difficult to explain absences and lateness and are more likely to be fired or forced to resign than non-victims.

“Domestic violence has a ripple effect on the work place. Employment can have positive impacts for victims of domestic violence by providing the financial means and psychological resources to cope with or end an abusive relationship,” Dr Blue says.

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