General policy statement
This Bill is an omnibus Bill. It amends the Domestic Violence Act 1995, Employment Relations Act 2000, Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, Holidays Act 2003, and Human Rights Act 1993 with a view to enhancing legal protections for victims of domestic violence.
Domestic violence has a damaging, yet often hidden, impact on victims’ lives. The protections of this Bill acknowledge the harm experienced by victims and the influence in the workplace of that harm. The Bill supports victims to stay in paid employment, maintaining productivity and reducing recruitment and training costs for employers. Staying in employment is critical to reducing the effects of violence. Secure employment enables victims to maintain domestic and economic stability and assists them to find a pathway out of violence and to successfully rebuild their lives.
Domestic violence can lead to discrimination in terms of employment due to misconceptions about victims’ experiences and the circumstances in which they may find themselves. This Bill addresses any discrimination and in doing so removes the barriers experienced by victims.
The abuser may make it hard for a victim to get to work or target the victim at work. The most common form of domestic violence experienced at work is abusive calls and emails. The strain of dealing with domestic violence can undermine a worker’s productivity, performance, and well-being. Victims are particularly vulnerable in the workplace. This is due to the predictability of their location or working hours or both.
Domestic violence can also create problems for other staff and managers, who may be targeted as well, posing workplace safety and, ultimately, liability issues. In extreme cases, victims have been stalked and eventually killed by violent ex-partners whilst in the workplace.
Domestic violence does not easily fit the definitions and circumstances of other forms of workplace violence, such as workplace bullying or violence from customers or clients. This Bill addresses this current gap in legislation.
Domestic violence is a significant problem in New Zealand that requires a consistent society-wide response. We know that a significant number of victims who are killed have not been in touch with support agencies but their work colleagues have either known or suspected domestic violence. This makes the workplace a primary place for intervention.
The operation of the protections in the Bill will result in employers and others acquiring personal information about the domestic circumstances of victims. Under the Privacy Act 1993, the persons holding the information must not disclose it, except in tightly controlled instances. One such instance, which might be vital for victims, is the case of disclosure being necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to the life or health of the individual concerned.
This Bill provides legislation that signals domestic violence is unacceptable. This Bill will create a system to support businesses to respond effectively.