New Zealand businesses are being told that offering leave to victims of domestic violence makes good financial sense.
Green MP Jan Logie’s Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Bill is set for its first reading in Parliament on March 8.
It would give victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave and guide employers on how they could support them.
It also clarifies that domestic violence is a workplace hazard.
National has indicated it will not support the bill. But the Maori and Act parties say they will, at its first reading, which would get it to the select committee stage.
“At the moment domestic violence is costing $368 million or more a year, through lost productivity, businesses losing great staff and turnover and retraining,” Logie said.
“While [businesses] recognise it as a significant social problem they may not understand the impact on their workplace. This helps bring that into focus.”
Kirk Hope, chief executive of BusinessNZ, said it was an important issue and it would be useful to have it debated at select committee.
That would allow the experience of victims to be heard, he said, and allow businesses to discuss how they might manage such a law. Small businesses would then get a chance to talk about potential costs, he said.
He said many businesses already offered domestic violence leave provisions. “They tend to be larger organisations. We are interested in hearing about the potential impact on smaller businesses.”
Hope said, under the health provisions of the Health and Safety Act, employers had an obligation to think about managing these issues already. He said he did not get a sense from his membership that victims who needed leave were unable to take it.
Logie said she was interested in feedback from employers about how the bill could be made more effective or easier to implement.
The Warehouse Group is one that has already taken action.
It offers up to 10 days paid leave per year, in confidence, for medical appointments, legal proceedings or other activities related to family violence. Staff can also take unpaid leave to support someone who is a victim.
“Our 12,000 employees are representative of the New Zealand population and if we can support them and encourage other businesses to support their own employees, then hopefully together a real difference can be made,” said chief people officer Anna Campbell.
A research project commissioned by the PSA said by 2024, 14.4 million working hours would have been lost to domestic violence, if nothing was done. That year, 111,070 victims of domestic violence were in full-time employment.
In Australia, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland have domestic violence leave provisions in their state law. An Australian report found only 1.5 per cent of female employees and 0.3 per cent of male employees were likely to use it in any given year.