In a progressive move, New Zealand has just passed legislation that enables victims of domestic violence to take up to 10 days paid leave. The new law is designed to provide victims of domestic abuse time to remove themselves from a dangerous situation – for example, moving to a new house and transferring schools for their children.
Green Party MP Jan Logie introduced The Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Bill after working on it for the past seven years. It wasn’t an overwhelming victory — with 63 votes in support and 57 against. National party members withdrew support of the bill, arguing that potential employers may discriminate against hiring people suspected of being victims of domestic abuse.
New Zealand has the highest reported rate of family violence and child abuse in the developed world, with an estimated 30 percent of women victims of physical or sexual violence during their lives. Police are called to family violence incidents on average every four minutes.
“Part of this initiative is getting a whole-of-society response,” said Logie. “We don’t just leave it to police but realize 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.’”
Those applying for the new domestic violence leave are not required to prove their situation and will be provided with further support if needed, such as flexible work conditions, changing the work location if possible, or having contact details removed from business websites.
“From our work with survivors, we know that women often lose their job as a result of their experience of domestic abuse or having to flee their home,” said Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid. “We also know that financial concerns are a major barrier to women leaving their abusive partner.”
Logie was inspired to introduce the bill after research from the Women’s Refuge found that less than half of women in abusive relationships were able to retain their full-time jobs.
“Those who stayed faced numerous hardships affecting their future employment prospects, and those who left found it difficult to re-enter the workforce,” said Logie.