New Zealand Passes Bill To Grant Paid Leave To Domestic Abuse Victims

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“It is also about changing the cultural norms and saying ‘we all have a stake in this and it is not OK’.”

 

Domestic violence is a prevalent issue in the modern world but no more so than New Zealand — with police responding to a family violence incident every four minutes.

And now the nation has taken a huge step to protect domestic abuse victims.

In a world-first, New Zealand passed a legislation granting victims of domestic violence 10 days paid leave to allow them to resettle, separate from their abusive partners and take care of their children — without having to worry about losing their job.

The bill, which passed 63-57, was the culmination of seven years of blood, sweat and tears by Green MP Jan Logie.

Logie, who worked in a women’s refuge before she became a politician, teared up when her bill was passed but it was not without opposition.

National MPs who had initially supported the bill, withdrew their support at the final hour, claiming the bill might persuade employers to not hire people with domestic violence issues to begin with and that paid leave, would come at a great cost to small businesses.

Domestic violence is a massive concern in New Zealand, with one of the highest rates of domestic abuse in developed countries. The country spends approximately NZ$4.1bn and $7bn a year over violence related cases.

Logie said the bill was the first step in tackling the national pandemic that has destroyed too many lives. The MP wishes to set a pattern for other countries to follow where abuse victims are validated and helped.

“Part of this initiative is getting a whole-of-society response. We don’t just leave it to police but realise we all have a role in helping victims. It is also about changing the cultural norms and saying ‘we all have a stake in this and it is not OK’,” said Logie.

The legislation, which will come in effect in April 2019, will ensure victims of domestic abuse are given up to 10 days of paid leave, in addition to entitled holiday and sick leaves.

Other protections provided to the victims will be changing their work place, changing and removal of email address from business websites to ensure anonymity of the need be. The victims also do not have to prove they face domestic abuse.

“Domestic violence doesn’t respect that split between work and life. A huge amount of research tells us a large number of abusive partners bring the violence into the workplace,” said Logie. “Be that by stalking their partner, by constant emails or phone calls or threatening them or their workmates. And some of that is about trying to break their attachment to their job to get them fired or get them to quit so they are more dependent on their partner. It is very common.”

The first ever legislation of its kind, aims to tackle various hurdles placed in the way of abuse victims and survivors. The fact that the bill acknowledges that work and personal life blend in for a victim, is a huge step in itself. It also eases up victim’s decision making by providing financial stability — one of the prevalent causes why victims choose to stay with abusive partners.

Dr Ang Jury, the chief executive of Women’s Refuge, acknowledged the bill was not going to miraculously rid of domestic violence problem. However, she said it was a step in the right direction.

“We know women’s economic situation is pivotal to her choices that decide what she can and can’t do. If she can retain her job and retain the confidence of her employer, whilst still dealing with domestic issues, then that is great news,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Shine, charity helping victims of domestic abuse, Holly Carrington said the bill set a precedent of how businesses are supposed to act.

“It sets a solid benchmark for what businesses are legally required to do and we need to be clear that employers can do this from a perspective of self-interest, because by helping those staff they will be retaining valuable employees and improving productivity,” she said.

“Obviously we are happy and thrilled [about the bill] but in the scheme of things the struggle goes on,” Carrington added. “Our frontline staff are overwhelmed on a daily basis. We have dangerous, high-risk cases every day where the system is completely failing to protect them. We didn’t take the time out to celebrate. Maybe we should have, because this is a huge win.”

In March, Australia also came up with their version of the bill, where they allocated five days leave for domestic abuse victims; however, those leaves would be unpaid.

Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: Pixabay

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