13 Feb 2017

Govt won't back domestic violence bill

6:12 pm on 13 February 2017

The government says it will not be supporting the Domestic Violence Leave Bill.

Michael Woodhouse

Michael Woodhouse said the extra leave outlined in the bill would have significant costs attached to it. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Green MP Jan Logie's Domestic Violence Victims' Protection Bill will have its first reading in Parliament on 8 March.

But the bill, which would give victims of domestic abuse 10 days of paid leave to help them improve their situation, is not dead in the water yet.

The Māori and Act parties say they will support the bill at its first reading, which would get it to the Select Committee stage.

Minister for Workplace Relations Michael Woodhouse said while the government was sympathetic to the aims of the bill, the extra leave would have significant costs attached to it.

In a statement, Mr Woodhouse said the bill sought to remedy something that was 'already addressed by existing provisions within current Employment and Health and Safety legislation'.

"Many employers already go above and beyond the statutory minimum employment standards as set out in legislation. For example, The Warehouse Group and the GCSB already offer all staff who are victims of domestic violence up to 10 days additional leave per year."

A spokesperson for the United Future leader Peter Dunne said he would not disclose his position until he voted on Wednesday.

New Zealand First said it was undecided.

Business New Zealand backs bill to Select Committee stage

Business New Zealand said it was keen to see the bill pass its first reading because it would be useful to hear from small businesses about how they'd cope with the new obligations during the Select Committee process.

"It's important to hear the views of victims but also smaller businesses who would have to manage it, and how they would be able to manage it, if at all," its chief executive Kirk Hope said.

But EY Law employment lawyer Christie Hall agreed with Minister Woodhouse that employers were already obligated to help abuse victims under current health and safety laws.

"If an employee came to you and said 'I'm a bit fearful of leaving work in the dark because I've got this situation going on at home,' then that would also put an obligation on an employer to take reasonable steps to deal with that risk."

EY introduced its own domestic violence policy seven months ago and Christie Hall believed reducing the stigma associated with domestic violence would be one of the main positives of the Bill becoming law.

ANZ, which started offering special leave to staff members affected by domestic abuse 18 months ago, said the benefits outweighed the cost of such a programme.

"It's counterintuitiative but it costs very little. The cost of losing someone to sick leave, turnover or unexplained absences, lower performance and disengagement... all of those add up. Providing paid special leave is not as expensive as you might think," ANZ senior HR manager Gina McJarrow said.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association said it is going to see wait and what came from the Bill's first reading before commenting on the Bill.