It is estimated that there could be around 500,000 family violence victims in New Zealand, of which more than 40% are in paid employment.
Furthermore, domestic violence was estimated to cost businesses $368 million annually in 2014. This is the cost in lost productivity, cover for sick days, and recruitment/retraining when victims are unable to keep working.
Consequently, the workplace is a “powerful and effective place to intervene”, according to Equal Opportunities Commissioner, Dr Jackie Blue.
“Keeping an employee safe and supporting them can be as simple as connecting them with a family violence specialist group, screening phone calls and visitors, and providing leave to attend appointments or make arrangements related to family violence.”
Dr Blue’s comments come as seven of New Zealand’s largest employers - The Warehouse Group, ANZ NZ, Countdown, Vodafone NZ, Fonterra, Ricoh New Zealand, and EY - have worked with the Human Rights Commission to draft a family violence policy that is now available to all employers.
Moreover, the Human Rights Commission has congratulated the group of employers who have published the model workplace policy and encouraged other firms to take it up.
“Employers know that family violence is a human rights issue that affects productivity and safety in the workplace,” said Dr Blue. “But it isn’t always easy for employers to know what is needed or how to provide appropriate support to victims.”
Dr Blue added that the model policy is a template that offers employers three levels of choices for a family violence policy.
Furthermore, by choosing among the best-practice options, every employer can create a family violence policy that works for their staff and workplace.
“Family violence doesn’t respect boundaries between home and the workplace. Ensuring that the affected employee is safe and supported at work is good for productivity and morale. It will also help break the cycle of abuse by providing safe haven where employees can gain confidence and take steps to break the abusive cycle.
“With family violence being one of New Zealand’s most salient human rights issues, it is important that we all take responsibility to reduce this where we can. We are pleased to see businesses take up this challenge. An effective family violence policy is the right thing to do and is also good for business.”