NZ marches further forward by introducing paid domestic violence leave

NZ marches further forward by introducing paid domestic violence leave

It’s possible that New Zealand has its sights set on Iceland and Norway in becoming known as one of the most gender equal countries in the world.

It’s still got a long way to go, but it’s latest move in getting there is a big one — and one many in Australia have long suggested we implement (and that Nordic countries too like Iceland could benefit from) — legislating to offer victims of domestic violence up to ten days paid leave from work.

Such leave can be game-changing in supporting victims in not only managing their health and well-being, but also to make necessary appointments, seek safety, and make arrangements to leave or move house if necessary. Many of these appointments simply have to be made during business hours.

The bill passed 63 to 57 in the NZ Parliament during the week and will become effective as of April 2019.

The World Health Organisation estimates that one in three women are sexually or physically abused by a partner, with further research finding the problem is particularly bad in New Zealand. Research by the NZ Herald listed the country as having the worst rate of family and partner violence in the world. It estimates that 525,000 people are harmed every year but 80% of those go unreported to police.

It’s something we all have a stake in, and it’s not ok simply letting it continue, according to the bill’s sponsor Green MP Jan Logie (pictured above).

“Part of this initiative is getting a whole-of-society response. We don’t just leave it to police but realize we all have a role in helping victims,” she told The Guardian.

The new law came off the back of research from the Women’s Refuge in NZ finding 60% of women in abusive relationships were employed full time from the beginning of the relationship, but less than half were able to keep their job.

At Women’s Agenda, we recently did our own research on the issue in partnership with Good Shepard, finding that employer-led support for victims varies dramatically in Australia, and that a Government-led initiative would offer significant support and assistance to those experiencing domestic-violence.

The Turnbull Government recently promised to introduce five days of unpaid leave to victims. The ACTU said that’s it’s a step in the right direction, but doesn’t provide anything like the money and time victims require to protect their families and make themselves safe. Opposition leader Bill Shorten has promised to introduce ten days paid domestic violence leave if elected.

According to the ACTU, it costs an average $18,280 and takes 141 hours to leave an abusive relationships and find a new, safe place to live in Australia. It says that paid leave is significant in helping those experiencing domestic violence to keep their job and have the financial independence to keep themselves and their families safe.

This latest move from New Zealand is likely to see the conversation further developed in Australia, and paid domestic violence leave potentially becoming a campaign issue in the next Federal election.

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