The New Zealand Parliament has just passed a bill that makes it mandatory for survivors of domestic violence to be allowed 10 days' paid leave from work, in addition to their regular sick and vacation time, to make any arrangements that help them to leave or recover from an abusive situation, the Guardian reported. The leave is only part of the package; survivors will also now protected from being discriminated against by their employers, per the BBC, and ask their employers for flexible working arrangements and measures to protect their safety, like taking all their details off the company website and changing their workspace to a new location. What's more, survivors don't have to "prove" their circumstances in order to utilize these protections. The bill will go into effect in April, 2019.
This law is a major protection for domestic violence survivors in New Zealand. The country has one of the worst domestic violence rates in the world, according to the Guardian; statistics from 2017 show that 80 percent of incidents go unreported and 525,000 New Zealanders are harmed every year, which, for a population of under 5 million, is a large amount. And the consequences of that statistic go far beyond the impact on survivors' lives. There's a huge economic cost to domestic violence, from missed days of work to lost productivity to pressure on health services and psychological support systems. The UN noted in 2016 that incidents of domestic violence "cause more deaths and entail much higher economic costs than homicides or civil wars."
People escaping domestic violence often have to miss work days to relocate, find childcare, and take their partners to court. And the workplace itself can be a place for harassment and control by violent partners and family members. Jan Logie, the New Zealand politician who proposed the measure, was quoted as saying, "We have a huge amount of evidence now from years of research that tells us about the impact of that domestic violence in workplaces where victims are stalked in their workplaces, where they are sabotaged from attending work or performing in their jobs by their abusers, and that they are also often harassed in the workplace." She added, "This is a win for victims, a win for employers, and a win for society."
It's also not the first bill of its kind; the BBC reported that the Philippines passed a similar law in 2004, while Australia and Canada also have legislation pending. And laws like these will make an enormous difference in the lives of survivors: Whether survivors have to take sick days to recuperate from abuse or to relocate, or if they're forced to quit by a controlling partner, domestic violence has a serious and ongoing effect on people's lives at work. And that can be overlooked — with damaging consequences for survivors.
For people who are escaping domestic violence, workplaces can be a refuge and a source of economic and personal freedom. Want to help survivors in your workplace? Ask your manager whether your employer has any domestic violence leave or specific support policies on the books — and if you can help put one in place. And talk to your representatives about why you think domestic violence legislation like New Zealand's should be on the table in your state. The midterm elections are coming up fast; make your voice heard.