The Human Rights Commission welcomed the final reading of the Domestic Violence Victims Protection Bill which will come into force early next year.
According to consultation recently carried out by the Human Rights Commission with a range of women’s organisations, gender-based violence against women and children is their number one human rights issue.
This week, the Commission and a United Nations committee on women’s rights called for a coherent and cross-party strategy to combat gender-based violence.
The Equal Employment Opportunities and Women’s Rights Commissioner, Dr Jackie Blue, said violence against women was alarmingly high and all sectors of society, including employers, had a responsibility to support victims and encourage preventative actions.
“More than 40 percent of family violence victims are in paid employment. We know it affects the engagement, productivity, workplace accident levels of employees,” Dr Blue said.
The Act entitles employees who are victims of domestic violence to request up to 10 days paid leave from their employer, if they have worked in the job for at least six months. It also allows employees to request a change in their working conditions including, hours, days or place of work to ensure their safety at work.
Earlier this month, the Human Rights Commission in association with seven major businesses released a model workplace family violence policy that all employers can adapt and use. The Human Rights Commission worked with ANZ, Countdown, The Warehouse, Vodafone, EY, Ricoh and Fonterra to put in place a template policy and toolkit for employers ahead of this law change.
Dr Blue said the workplace is often the only place a victim of family violence feels safe.
“An employer with a family violence policy and practices, such as paid leave, can provide a forward path for family violence victims to gain confidence and break the abusive cycle,” Dr Blue said.
The cost to business of family violence involving workers is significant, said Dr Blue. It was estimated to cost businesses $368 million annually in 2014. Having a family violence policy in your workplace is more than just ‘the right thing to do’. It also makes business sense, she said.
The model policy is available at www.businessworkingtoendfamilyviolence.co.nz