Bill launched to help businesses respond to domestic violence

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Employees who are victims of domestic violence will be afforded more workplace protection under a new Member’s Bill launched this week.

The Domestic Violence-Victims' Protection Bill by Green MP Jan Logie, will make amendments to the Domestic Violence Act 1995, Employment Relations Act 2000, Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, Holidays Act 2003, and Human Rights Act 1993, which will give employers the tools to support workers who are suffering domestic violence.

Changes made to the Employment Relations Act 2000 include a new Part 6AB to “provide for flexible working arrangements for employees who are victims of domestic violence” and amends section 105 to add “as a prohibited ground of discrimination, being a victim of domestic violence”.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 will be amended  to “require employers to have policies on handling situations arising from the hazard of an employee suffering domestic violence” and a change to section 13 to require employers to take all practicable steps to ensure union delegates, or trained health and safety representatives, receive training in supporting employees who are victims of domestic violence.

And, finally, a new subpart five will be added to the Holidays Act 2003 to allow victims of domestic violence to request domestic violence leave.

Logie said the Bill will address any discrimination victims face in terms of employment and addresses the gap in legislation around domestic violence and the workplace.

“The Bill supports victims to stay in paid employment, maintaining productivity and reducing recruitment and training costs for employers,” she wrote. “Staying in employment is critical to reducing the effects of violence. Secure employment enables victims to maintain domestic and economic stability and assists them to a pathway out of violence and to successfully rebuild their lives.”

The Bill has the backing of the Public Service Association (PSA) and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

PSA national secretary, Brenda Pilott, said the organisation has been working with employers to get agreed provisions that provide support at work for people suffering from domestic violence, but as  employer by employer agreements do not provide for everyone legislation is needed.

Michael Barnett, head of the Auckland Chamber, said that businesses are well placed to recognise the signals that arise from domestic violence, and then take appropriate action.

“Many of the people trapped in events of domestic violence display common signs. These might include (other than obvious physical signs), taking time off, lack of productivity or health issues,” he said. “Being a good employer doesn’t mean we have to be social workers, but as with everyone else in the community we have a broader social responsibility.”

To read the Domestic Violence-Victims' Protection Bill click here.

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