After a seven-year campaign spearheaded by New Zealand Member of Parliament Jan Logie, the country's lawmakers passed legislation that will give domestic violence victims 10 days of paid leave from work, a step advocates say will give victims much-needed space to protect themselves from their abusers without jeopardizing their income.
"We know women's economic situation is pivotal to her choices that decides what she can and can't do. If she can retain her job and retain the confidence of her employer, whilst still dealing with domestic issues, then that is great news," Dr. Ang Jury, chief executive of the domestic violence resource organization Women's Refuge, told the Guardian.
The country's Parliament voted for the legislation 63 to 57, with opponents claiming that enabling victims to shield themselves from abuse while protecting their finances and job security would be too costly to small businesses, and would prevent companies from hiring people they suspected could be victimized.
But Logie successfully argued that domestic abuse, which currently costs New Zealand between $4 billion and $7 billion annually, already interferes with workplaces all over the country, convincing most lawmakers that her bill would protect women and men who suffer abuse as well as benefit their employers.
"All too often, victims have to leave their workplace because of [abuse], and it makes them more reliant on their abusive partner and means their employers has to recruit and train up new staff. It's a lose-lose situation." —Jan Logie, New Zealand MP"Domestic violence isn't restricted to the home," Logie told her fellow MPs. "It reaches into workplaces all over our country. Stalking, constant emails or phone calls, attacks or threats in and outside of the workplace, making her late or making her miss work altogether...These are common tactics of abuse and they can be directed at the victim or the victim's workmates. They undermine the safety and productivity of our workplaces."
"All too often," she continued, "victims have to leave their workplace because of this, and it makes them more reliant on their abusive partner and means their employers has to recruit and train up new staff. It's a lose-lose situation."
The Domestic Violence Victims' Protection bill is expected to have wide-reaching effects all over New Zealand, which has one of the highest rates of domestic violence among industrialized countries. One in three women in New Zealand are estimated to experience family violence in their lifetimes, and police respond to a call regarding the issue once every four minutes—a statistic, Logie noted, which only represents the incidents that are reported.
Under the legislation, victims will not have to prove to their employer that they've suffered domestic abuse. In addition to the paid leave—which aims to allow them to find new housing and protect themselves and their children—employers will be required to help ensure victims' safety at work by offering a new email address, new working location, and other special conditions.
New Zealand joins only one other country in the world that offers paid leave to employees suffering from domestic violence; the Philippines passed a similar law in 2004. Two provinces in Canada also offer the benefit.
On social media, lawmakers from around the world urged their countries to follow New Zealand and the Philippines' example of passing laws that can offer practical, much-needed help to survivors of domestic abuse.
My 2016 report on 'Poverty from a Gender Perspective' called for paid domestic violence leave and was the first time the idea was endorsed at an EU level. Ireland should lead the way.
New Zealand to grant paid leave for domestic violence victims https://t.co/rPR0Iwz5Rn
— Lynn Boylan MEP (@LNBDublin) July 26, 2018
As a domestic violence survivor myself, I am proud to be part of an international movement securing safety and support for survivors, and will be proposing the same policy to @TheGreenParty conference. Thank you for being pioneering @NZGreens https://t.co/7WRQNkFzzb
— Amelia Womack (@Amelia_Womack) July 26, 2018