Bill to help victims of abuse

By Cassandra Mason

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COUNTING THECOST: Domestic violence is estimated to cost Kiwi businesses $368 million per year in lost productivity, according to a recent Public Service Association study.
COUNTING THECOST: Domestic violence is estimated to cost Kiwi businesses $368 million per year in lost productivity, according to a recent Public Service Association study.

A new bill giving domestic-violence victims 10 days off work annually on abuse-related leave could help abused women - provided they are prepared to tell their bosses, Hastings Women's Refuge says.

Green Party women's spokeswoman Jan Logie recently launched The Domestic Violence Victims' Protection Bill, alongside Public Service Association (PSA) research showing domestic violence costs Kiwi businesses $368 million a year in lost productivity.

The bill would introduce workplace protections for abuse victims to help reduce that cost.

"Victims of domestic violence often lose their jobs because they may not be able to focus on their work, are unable to show up to work, or are stalked by their abusers while at work," Ms Logie said.

According to Women's Refuge, one in three Kiwi women are victims of domestic violence in their lifetime.

The new bill would give victims flexibility in their working arrangements, protect them from workplace discrimination, and grant sufferers up to 10 days' leave.

Manager of the Maori Women's Refuge in Hastings, Vi Pirini, said anything that enhanced victims' safety was positive.

"Having that understanding from employers is beneficial for everybody."

Many employers were hugely sympathetic, but victims' shame about speaking up often left their bosses in the dark, she said.

"We always encourage our whanau, 'Tell your employers because if they don't know, they don't know'.

"They're also scared that if they tell [their bosses], they'll be treated differently, or they don't want to be seen in a different light."

Passing legislation that officially recognised domestic violence in the workplace would help address this, but there would always be employers who didn't like "being told".

"We'd like to think people do it because they're good employers, not because they have to."

Business New Zealand chief executive Phil O'Reilly said domestic violence required a "societal response" rather than a workplace solution.

"[Domestic violence] is only one of a number of these things that happen domestically or in society that have an impact on the workplace, so it's not unique in that sense."

The bill had "enormous goodwill" but legislation would end up being a compliance issue for businesses, rather than a support issue.

"We should encourage open debate ... not just at workplaces but at the football club, and the Rotary club, and down at the pub, and the community groups and at church. We don't need laws for that. They get in the way, in fact."

Flexible work arrangements for domestic violence victims were already "pretty much covered" by existing law and most employers were supportive, Mr O'Reilly said.

An extra 10 days could prove expensive for businesses.

"If you're going to say that, then what else? Is it now drug and alcohol abuse as well?"

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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