Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Calls for paid leave for domestic violence victims

Justice Minister Amy Adams expects to make decisions on specific proposals for law changes in the coming months. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Justice Minister Amy Adams expects to make decisions on specific proposals for law changes in the coming months. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Domestic violence victims should have access to paid leave under law changes being considered to combat family violence, Justice Minister Amy Adams has been told.

The Warehouse group has introduced 10 days of leave for victims of domestic violence among its 12,000 staff.

And the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) and six other Government agencies have introduced the leave after lobbying from the Public Service Association.

In Australia, the Labor Party pledged to legislate five days of paid work leave for domestic violence victims if returned to Government, and both Labour and the Green Party support a law change to introduce the leave here.

Ms Adams today released a summary of nearly 500 detailed submissions from individuals and groups, that were received after the Government released a discussion document last August which floated a number of potential changes to family violence law.

Those submissions included calls for employment law to be altered to introduce domestic violence leave.

The Justice Minister expects to make decisions on specific proposals for law changes in the coming months, and introduce legislation later this year.

Poto Williams, Labour's associate justice spokeswoman (sexual and domestic violence), said a law change to provide the leave to all workers was needed.

Sick leave was not good enough cover.

"A woman who is escaping violence is not sick, this is completely another issue. And it allows for an employer to recognise the situation that someone finds themselves in, and it gives the employer an opportunity to support the person."

One issue was that domestic violence victims might be hesitant to let their employer know, Ms Williams said.

"There is a whole lot of attitude change [needed]. That is growing slowly as various campaigns, such as 'It's Not OK', permeate through the community."

PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk said its lobbying to get state sector employers to adopt a 10-day leave clause for victims of domestic violence was paying off.

The GCSB was the first Government agency to agree to the change. Other organisations with clauses of varying strength include the Taupo District Council, Hastings District Council, GNS Science, Healthcare of NZ, Assure Quality and HHL Group.

"We were surprised at the time that the GCSB were the first, but happily surprised ... it should be made available to anyone if it is leave to go to medical appointments, legal appointments, to move home -- all sorts of situations that can arise," Ms Polaczuk said.

"If you are hiding this fact from your employer, and you are taking leave which you are calling sick leave, that leave might be called into question. And if people lose their jobs, they can find they are financially reliant on the person who is abusing them.

Asked about the possibility of domestic violence leave being included in reforms, Ms Adams said it was not part of her own work programme.

"It sits under other portfolios ... but as part of a wider ministerial work programme it is certainly something that could be fed in. But it's not something I've got on the programme at the moment."

A member's bill by Green MP Jan Logie, which is in the ballot, would provide up to 10 days' leave from work for victims of domestic violence.

- NZ Herald

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