For far too many New Zealanders, family violence is a reality. It doesn’t end at home – our workplaces can be places of respite, and the financial security they can offer can help us to escape, but the harm violence does also has a significant impact there.
As a union we’re proud to lead the way on making employers address family violence as a workplace issue. Following local and international research, and some excellent experiences from our Australian sister unions, we are consistently pushing for employers we deal with to adopt policies and clauses in collective agreements that support those experiencing family violence.
These supports include training for management and HR, explicit policies on family violence, paid leave for court and counselling, a commitment not to discriminate against those experiencing family violence, and safety measures including changing start/finish times, workplace locations, email addresses and phone numbers for those at risk of being harassed or attacked at work.
Green Party MP Jan Logie has also championed this issue, and became a PSA member to support our work in this area. She has drafted legislation, the Domestic Violence—Victims’ Protection Bill, which would ensure that all people, no matter where they worked, had access to the support they need.
“To me it’s about creating an even playing field and ensuring that every victim has the same protections and the same opportunities for getting help across the country,” Jan says, “when we know that 1 in 3 women over their lifetime is likely to be a victim of family violence, and 1 in 20 will be in that situation right now, it doesn’t make sense to only do this in a piecemeal way.”
Work should be safe
Prior to becoming an MP, Jan worked at a Women’s Refuge, and worked with a woman who was trying to leave her abusive partner. “She needed the money that work provided, to pay back debt that he had racked up, and so she had to keep working, but he knew where she worked, and that put her life at risk.”
The women’s ex-partner knew where she worked, and what time she would be arriving and leaving, and her employer refused to move her to another location. It was this that helped Jan realise that employers needed support to take a lead on this issue.
In order for Parliament to have a chance of voting on this proposed law, it needs to be drawn in a random ballot from amongst dozens of other proposed pieces of legislation. Jan says she would love it if the Government recognised the importance of this law change and agreed to put it to Parliament immediately.
“I would be very happy to work with this Government to pass this legislation – I don’t need it to be mine, I just want it to be implemented,” though Jan adds that she doesn’t think it is likely to happen under the current Government, saying “I’ve spoken several times to different ministers within the Government and the response I’ve had is ‘that’s interesting but we don’t need it’.”
Not a personal issue
One of the biggest obstacles to putting better supports in place is the idea that family violence is only an issue for those experiencing it. Jan is clear that it isn’t a personal issue, it’s a societal one.
“The sense I get from some people in business and ministers is that family violence is a home issue, and we can just leave it to people to sort out themselves, it’s a bit messy and we don’t want to get involved. But there’s so many things wrong with that – we know from the Family Violence Death Review that often, colleagues are the only other people who know that somebody is in danger.”
In the interim, some organisations like the GCSB and The Warehouse are introducing measures.The Warehouse are developing an app for managers to use when a staff member discloses their experience of family violence, and Jan says “that kind of creative thinking saves lives, it’s awesome.”