13 Feb 2017

Govt urged to support domestic violence bill

5:50 pm on 13 February 2017

The government is being urged to support a bill that would give domestic violence victims paid leave to help them deal with their situation.

no caption

The bill would give domestic violence victims 10 days of paid leave to help them attend court hearings and meet with lawyers. Photo: 123rf

In an open letter published today, The National Council of Women is calling on the Minister for Workplace Relations, Michael Woodhouse, to support the bill at its first reading so it can go to Select Committee.

The letter is backed by anti-violence campaigners, unions and Equal Employment Opportunities Commission Jackie Blue.

Green MP Jan Logie's Domestic Violence Victims' Protection Bill will have its first reading in Parliament on 8 March.

It would give domestic violence victims, or a person in their immediate family or household who is supporting them, 10 days of paid leave to help them move house, attend court hearings and meet with lawyers.

The bill would save lives, National Council of Women chief executive Lynn McKenzie said.

"Employment is a key pathway out of domestic violence and the bill is basically recognising domestic violence as a workplace hazard and putting obligations on the employer to make the workplace safe."

Countdown, The Warehouse Group, ANZ and the University of Auckland already offer family violence leave to their staff.

A few of Countdown's 18,000 staff had sought help since the policy was November last year, spokesperson James Walker said.

It provided 10 days paid leave, access to counselling services, and help changing emails and phone numbers.

"Any business in New Zealand should look to see what they can do to support their teams."

"It [the bill] allows us to have a conversation in New Zealand about what more can be done and what the role of business is in that," Mr Walker said.

Countdown would he happy to help other businesses that were considering adopting similar policies, he said.

Neither Business New Zealand or the Employers and Manufacturing Association could be reached for comment.

Jan Logie.

Jan Logie is hopeful her bill make it to Select Committee. Photo: RNZ

Green MP Jan Logie said she expected the bill to face some opposition.

"I'm hoping we don't because I think the public discussion is part of getting the social change.

"At least if it goes to Select Committee it gives the chance for public discussion and for more businesses to find out about it," she said.

The Women's Refuge helped develop the domestic violence leave policy adopted by The Warehouse over a year ago.

The Refuge's chief executive, Ang Jury, said the issue was already a huge cost to business.

"If you have got somebody who is trying to deal with violence in their personal life you're not going to have a productive worker," she said.

Mr Woodhouse did not respond to requests for comment. His spokesperson told RNZ all Private Members Bills were given careful consideration by the caucus prior to having their first reading.

Read the open letter to Mr Woodhouse here.