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Domestic Violence in the Workplace!

Domestic Violence - Victims Protection Bill 2018

With White Ribbon day coming up on November 25th, we thought it would be a good time to touch on the responsibilities of employers when it comes to domestic violence in New Zealand. 

Domestic Violence is an epidemic in New Zealand. The problem with it is that it happens behind closed doors and most people don't know it's happening to someone close to them unless they see visible marks. Domestic Violence occurs to those from all walks of life, different colours, different races, and different socio-economic status. And one in three women experience some sort of domestic violence whether it be physical or sexual abuse from a partner. No matter the excuse, it's not acceptable in our society.

My own experience with domestic violence was one that was psychological in nature, but the yelling, screaming, the slamming of doors and the constant fear for my life and that of my child was real. Times when I tried to remove myself from the situation, there were threats of smashed windows,  screaming and more fear. The details aren't necessary, but when your mother tells you over a cup of tea weeks later, she was scared that one day she would have a police man knocking at her door telling her that her grandchild or child were dead was a pretty sobering moment. One that made me realise how nice it is to be in a safe place.

The workplace should be a safe place as well, but for some women experiencing domestic violence, it's a place that is used against them in many ways. Whether the perpetrator makes it difficult for the victim to get to and from work, the constant check-ins (phone calls, emails, text messages etc), and the threats means workplaces often become a place of torment. Add to the fact that employers are often unaware what is happening in the personal life of the employee, they see the employee lacking in motivation, with their performance reduced and in turn someone to get rid of. In turn, they may loose their job, and be in a position where they are dependent on the perpetrator and the circle continues. You can see the knock on effect can't you.

So why is the Victims Protection Bill 2018 such a pivotal piece of legislation? Because it allows employees to request 10 days leave per annum to deal with the effects of domestic violence, or request to have a short term variation to their terms of employment. It means that the conversation has to occur, and disclosure from a person experiencing domestic violence be taken seriously. It means support structures need to be in place, in the hope that they never are needed. It means employers need to understand their responsibilities, and how they can support and manage this new special leave without shaming and blaming the person experiencing the turbulent life or seeing this as another piece of legislation employees will misuse. To me it means that as a nation we may actually make a difference to the next generation and reduce domestic violence in our country.

Take responsibility in your workplace.

For more details on domestic violence check out http://areyouok.org.nz/or http://www.2shine.org.nz/ for more information on domestic violence or to get support. 


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