Workplace family violence action

5 Dec 2017
Author: Andrea Twaddle
 
On 25 November, we acknowledged White Ribbon Day, the international day for the elimination of men’s violence against women. Given the high levels of domestic violence in New Zealand, and its devastating impact, is timely that we consider the Victims’ Protection Bill introduced into Parliament earlier this year by Green Party MP, Jan Logie, to help employees who are victims of domestic violence.

The unusual circumstance of unanimous Parliamentary support for the Bill in its first reading is demonstrative of the significant presence and impact of domestic violence in New Zealand and the acknowledgment of the need to support victims of domestic violence.

The Bill, and associated amendments to other legislation, is intended to empower victims of domestic violence, by enabling up to 10 days of paid leave to help organise housing, attend to their children’s needs, counselling, court commitments and consult with lawyers. Flexible working arrangements may also be arranged between the victim and employer.

It is possible that the Victims’ Protection Bill becomes part of the significant employment law reforms proposed by the new Government. However, the provision of paid leave may be more difficult for smaller employers to manage. Issues such as the limit of how many times in a given period an employee can claim domestic violence leave will also need close consideration.

Irrespective of whether support for victims of family violence is legislated for, the issue of domestic violence and its effect can no longer be ignored by employers. Employers are encouraged to consider the introduction of a policy that addresses family violence in the workplace. The development and implementation of workplace policies should be undertaken with specialist advice and training, because despite good intentions, some actions can be counter-productive.

Steps responsible employers can take include:
  • increasing an understanding of family violence in the workplace;
  • providing staff with information and training (awareness for supervisors of what help is available to employees, and how to respond in a responsible and empathetic way); and
  • developing workplace procedures. For example, how someone experiencing family violence can be supported, such as allowing time off, flexible and/or variable hours, screening calls, access to security when entering and leaving the workplace, access to support agencies and counselling/employee assistance services.

However, without a supportive workplace culture, policies alone will fall short of effective action for those experiencing family violence.

The Bill brings what is traditionally a very private issue into the workplace. Developing a workplace culture that is supportive of those experiencing family violence will require good leaders, and a good understanding of how privacy and confidentiality can be maintained, while individuals are supported.

As a community, we have the ability to provide meaningful changes in the workplace that support those experiencing family violence, by providing economic and employment security and the support to facilitate a victim’s journey out of violence.

(Article first published by the Cambridge News, 1 December 2017 www.cambridgenews.nz)

 
 
 
Workplace family violence action
About the Author
Andrea Twaddle
Andrea is an experienced specialist employment lawyer and Director at DTI Lawyers. She advises on contentious and non-contentious employment law issues, including privacy, and health and safety matters. Andrea is AWI-CH qualified, and undertakes complex workplace investigations. She is a former Council Member at the WBOP District Branch of the Law Society, and Coordinator of the WBOP Employment Law Committee. Andrea is a regular commentator on employment law issues and is frequently sought as a presenter at client and industry seminars, as well as for the provision of advice to other lawyers, professional advisors and leadership teams. You can contact Andrea at andrea@dtilawyers.co.nz