Every year, particularly in December and January, we are reminded of the horrific stats and stories behind one of New Zealand's biggest human rights issues - family violence.

We live in a country where a family violence incident is reported to the police every five minutes. A country where half of all homicides and reported violent crimes are family violence related. A country where one in three women will experience violence in her lifetime.

A country that has the highest reported rates of intimate partner violence in the developed world.

It's not good enough, but unfortunately there's no quick fix. We can't legislate our way through this. We need to use all the levers and strategies we can to rid ourselves of this dark cloud, and Kiwi employers have a key role to play.


The damaging and pervasive effects of family violence extends well beyond the home. It is so common that all employers need to assume that in their workforce there will be victims, and they will be bringing that trauma to work.

The impact of that trauma means that people affected by family violence are more likely to be disengaged, less productive and at risk of workplace accidents.

Under the new Health and Safety At Work Act, it is likely that businesses already have a legal duty to manage work related risks of those employees who are suffering stress or psychological trauma as a result of family violence.

But we need to go further.

The Human Rights Commission is encouraging businesses to consider adopting a family violence policy that works to not only support their employees who are victims of family violence, but also support perpetrators who want to stop using violence as a means of resolution.

This isn't about writing a policy that sits on the shelf. This is about actively implementing a policy that an organisation lives and breathes at all levels of management and that all employees feel protected and supported by.

For many, the workplace can be the only safe place to access help and information. Because of this, the workplace is an ideal place to intervene and raise awareness of family violence by supporting those employees practically and connecting them with a family violence specialist service.

The commission recently released the first of a series of short videos featuring representatives from a range of organisations and businesses encouraging others to stand with them by rolling out a family violence in the workplace policy to help address the harm caused by family violence.

The Warehouse Group, ANZ Bank, Progressive Enterprises and Countdown Supermarkets, the University of Auckland and Shine are involved in the video series and are just some of the organisations in New Zealand that have adopted, or have assisted others in adopting, a family violence policy.

They, like us, are keen to see all New Zealand businesses equipped to provide that support, because it is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

Business can be an incredibly powerful catalyst for positive social change, particularly as the role of business in society is changing rapidly from a "doing no harm" model to "doing good".

We have many laws which set out basic work conditions such as minimum pay, holidays and hours worked, but a smart employer goes well beyond the bare minimum.

A smart employer will not treat their employees as an economic unit that appears in the workplace between 9am and 5pm, but will look to the humanity of their employees by upholding their human rights.

A smart employer will realise that by implementing a family violence policy, the cost savings to the business will be truly significant but crucially for victims, it can be both life-changing and life-saving.

Dr Jackie Blue is Equal Employment Commissioner.