New Zealand introduces domestic violence leave

Green MP Jan Logie introduced the bill enabling victims to take time off work to escape domestic violence situations, which are prevalent in New Zealand.

New Zealand Parliament, Wellington
New Zealand Parliament, Wellington

Michal Klajban / Wikimedia Commons

Kate Dickinson
Fri 27 Jul 2018

Groundbreaking legislation passed in New Zealand yesterday (26 July) will allow victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave from work in order to escape their situation.

The bill is the work of Green MP Jan Logie, who has spent seven years developing the legislation, inspired by her previous work at Women’s Refuge New Zealand. The country reports the highest rates of domestic abuse and ‘family violence’ in the world, with police responding to an incident every five minutes on average.

Coming into effect in April 2019, the law now provides for domestic violence victims to take 10 days of paid leave per year, on top of existing holiday and sick leave allowances, in order to leave their partners, find new homes, deal with potential court actions, attend counselling and support their children.

Domestic violence victims will not have to provide proof of their status, and will be eligible for flexible working conditions such as an altered email address or a new work location in order to ensure their safety. “A huge amount of research tells us a large number of abusive partners bring the violence into the workplace,” Logie explained, “be that by stalking their partner, by constant emails or phone calls or threatening them or their workmates.”

Although the bill was opposed by MPs in the centre-right National Party, it eventually passed by 63 votes to 57 and has been welcomed as a “step in the right direction” by Dr Ang Jury, Chief Executive of Women’s Refuge. “We know women’s economic situation is pivotal to her choices that decides what she can and can’t do,” Jury said. “If she can retain her job and retain the confidence of her employer, whilst still dealing with domestic issues, then that is great news.”

Amelia Womack, Green Party of England and Wales Deputy Leader, has praised the ruling, saying: “It's truly exciting to see a piece of legislation go through a parliament which will genuinely make the lives of women better. As a domestic abuse survivor myself, I know first-hand the terrible struggle that sits alongside the complexity of removing yourself from a situation of domestic violence, while also trying to maintain the expectations of the workplace.

"This law won't just draw attention to an issue so frequently brushed under the carpet, but will also liberate women from the complexities of an abusive relationship.”

Womack has been campaigning in the UK for misogyny to be recognised as a hate crime in national law, a concept which has been piloted in Nottingham since April 2016 and includes abuse or harassment that may not officially be a crime but may now be investigated by policy, with better support in place for victims.

“I applaud the amazing work by the New Zealand Greens,” said Womack. “Now it’s time for the UK to take measures here at home, starting with making misogyny a hate crime, a critical step towards changing attitudes towards women.”