4 Jun 2018

ACC cover for sexual harassment victims makes sense - advocates

7:30 am on 4 June 2018

ACC cover for victims of sexual harassment would be an excellent idea despite challenges, say lawyers and an advocacy group.

Katie Ashworth (left) and Stella Love Hart are marching against sexual harassment and assault.

Katie Ashworth (left) and Stella Love Hart are marching against sexual harassment and assault. Photo: RNZ / Nikki Mandow

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Justice, Jan Logie, is having informal discussions with the Minister for ACC, Iain Lees Galloway, about widening the provisions.

Ms Logie's office said no formal decisions have been made so far.

Project Restore NZ, a restorative justice organisation for perpetrators and survivors, said it would make a lot of sense for ACC to extend cover to include those who have experienced sexual harassment.

Its executive director Lisa Markwick said employees are entitled to cover someone if they receive physical injuries but mental injury from unwanted sexual comments or behaviours is just as damaging.

"It's not difficult to recognise mental harm and distress when it's being explained to you and link it to its cause, which in this case would be sexual harassment," she said.

Ms Markwick is optimistic that the extension will become a reality and said she was happy to talk to government about how to implement changes.

ACC lawyer John Miller supported the cause but said having the cover could be a double-edged sword.

"Although you have cover, your entitlements may be poor, and if you have cover you can't sue anyone for damage, so it needs to be thought through carefully," he said.

But fellow ACC lawyer Hazel Armstrong said it was important for victims to get help straight away.

"What I'm trying to avoid for the victims is them having to go through their HR, naming the victim and going through some form of litigation prior to receiving any treatment," she said.

Ms Armstrong said ACC is already available for people dealing with mental stress after witnessing traumatic events and this would simply be an extension of that.