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New Zealand passes Bill for paid leave for domestic abuse victims

As New Zealand passes legislation to allow domestic abuse victims 10 days' paid leave, campaigners hope it will prompt UK policymakers and businesses to take action

New Zealand has passed world-first legislation granting victims of domestic violence 10 days' paid leave to allow them to leave their partners, find new homes, and protect themselves and their children.

The new legislation will come into effect in April 2019 and stipulates that any person experiencing domestic violence will be entitled to 10 days' paid leave from work, which will be in addition to their standard holiday and sick leave entitlements.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world; police respond to a family violence incident every four minutes. Family violence is estimated to cost the country between NZ$4.1 billion (£2.1 billion) and NZ$7 billion (£3 billion) each year.

Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand MP Jan Logie, who worked in a women’s refuge before she became a politician, had pushed for the Bill for seven years. Logie said the new legislation is the first step in tackling the country’s endemic and “horrifying” domestic abuse rates, and called for other countries to follow suit.

“Part of this initiative is getting a whole-of-society response. We don’t just leave it to police but realise we all have a role in helping victims. It is also about changing the cultural norms and saying ‘we all have a stake in this and it is not OK’,” she said.

Speaking to HR magazine Elizabeth Filkin, who is a trustee of the Vodafone Foundation which aims to help employers tackle domestic abuse, said the legislation will be useful in helping the UK government build policy on the issue.

“Giving people paid leave is important, and it should be something that employers have in their back pocket to offer, if that is what would help in a particular situation. There is a new Bill coming through parliament next year on domestic abuse and we hope that there will be a section dedicated to what employers can do. Examples from across the world will be extremely useful in helping that Bill go through,” she said.

Filkin added that the Vodafone Foundation, which recently created a toolkit alongside Business in the Community (BITC) and Public Health England, wants to provide information to help employers tackle the issue in the best way for them.

Getting perpetrators to stop the abuse and tackling the culture surrounding domestic abuse should be key priorities, Filkin said.

“Our position is that we do not want to tell employers what to do in their own business. What we say is that we’re a network of people who want to help employers tackle domestic abuse,” she said.

“There are employers who have a high number of staff and know that they may have perpetrators among them. Some of our members have already started classes to prevent these things from happening. Perpetrators very often will move on to another victim, so it’s very important to get them to end their bad behaviour.

“We want to inform everyone else in the business to understand domestic abuse and to help people recognise the signs, as we see that as one of the most important aspects to allowing that culture change. We need to get a culture change in Britain so we’re not dealing with the huge problems that come as a result of abuse.”

Filkin added that employers who want to tackle domestic abuse should consult the toolkit, as well as the Bright Sky app created by crisis charity Hestia.