New Zealand Law changes to support sufferers of domestic abuse.
Domestic abuse may take place behind closed doors, but it has far reaching consequences and is known to have a detrimental impact on the working lives of those living in such circumstances. The scale of the problem is huge. In the UK, in any one year, more than one in five victims of domestic violence take time off work because of abuse and two per cent lose their jobs as a direct result of the abuse. Is it time for the UK government to follow in the footsteps of New Zealand and Philippines and introduce a new legislation for victims of domestic abuse.
The ability to take time off from work without facing disciplinary action or losing out on pay is crucial for survivors of domestic violence who are trying to escape an abusive relationship. Having found the courage to confront the situation they require time to find a new home, make suitable arrangements for their children, seek legal advice, receive medical assistance and get their lives back to normal.
This week New Zealand have followed in the steps of the Philippines and have introduced a new legislation to support the victims of domestic abuse. The new legislation means companies must grant domestic abuse victims an additional 10 days paid leave from work.
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world and this new legislation demonstrates that they are actively trying to address the problem by offering support, on a national level, to survivors.
The new legislation will come into effect in April next year and stipulates that any person experiencing domestic violence will be entitled to 10 days paid leave from work, which will be in addition to standard holiday and sick leave entitlements.
Victims will not be required to provide proof of their circumstances and will also be entitled to fast-tracked flexible working conditions to enhance their safety, such as altering their email address, having their details removed from the business’s website and where feasible relocating.
A spokeswoman from Women’s Aid in New Zealand commented “We hope that this momentous legislation will mark a change with other countries, including our own, taking positive steps to do more to support survivors stay in work”.
Domestic Abuse must not remain a taboo in society. The sizeable move made by New Zealand will hopefully increase people’s awareness of the issue and push other countries to change their legislations relating to the issue. The ordeal is enough in itself but additional pressures including work commitments, along with a lack of available support can only make the victim feel more vulnerable and helpless. This move will go some way towards helping to reduce these pressures and there is hope that other countries such as the UK will look to follow suit.
Coming to work may be the only safe haven a victim of domestic abuse has and at times even this can be compromised. Every circumstance is different and the way one individual deals with the matter will be polar opposite to another. Therefore, if a colleague approaches you about such matter, you must approach the situation sensitively and professionally as it may be the first time they have ever opened up about what they are experiencing. As an employer in the UK it is down to your discretion on what provisions you make for the individual. If it is having a detrimental impact on their health and welfare both physically and mentally you must be conscious of this and make any reasonable adjustments necessary to avoid falling foul of any discrimination issues.
Supporting employees who are experiencing domestic violence is crucial. Without a job and a source of income, those experiencing abuse are less likely to find a way of escaping. The emotional support of a colleague could also be an important life line and may reduce the feeling of isolation.
There is yet to be any laws introduced in the UK relating the treatment of employees suffering domestic abuse, but this is not to say this will always be the case.
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