Many victims of domestic violence are forced to give up work and go on benefits due to the inflexibility of their employment arrangements, says Angie Warren-Clark.
The Bay of Plenty-based Labour list MP was speaking in support of the Domestic Violence - Victims' Protection Bill in parliament last night.
The Bill, introduced by Green Party MP Jan Logie, aims to amend a number of pieces of legislation to improve legal protections for victims of domestic violence.
It would allow ten days leave annually for domestic violence victims, as well as clarifying their rights to request flexible working arrangements from their employer.
It also adds being a victim of domestic violence as grounds for non-discrimination to the Human Rights Act, so victims cannot be fired or otherwise penalised for the behaviour of their abuser.
In her experience as manager of Tauranga Women’s Refuge before becoming an MP, Angie says she met many domestic violence victims who had brilliant employers.
In one case, she says, a victim’s employer rang the refuge on her behalf.
“She was very lucky that they gave her paid time off. They organised a transfer for her to another city because (the abuser) was stalking her. They helped with her relocation and ongoing counselling.”
That is not the norm, however, she says, and many domestic violence victims had to give up work and go on a benefit for the first time in their lives as they were unable to get leave, all through no fault of their own.
She’s delighted the government are putting it into legislation, she says, “so that those bad employers, those employers who don't care, or those employers who just don't know what to do, will know what to do, and we will begin to have a more honest conversation about family violence.”
The Bill passed its second reading last night, with the Labour, New Zealand First and Green parties voting in favour.
National and ACT were opposed, citing concerns family violence is more a health and welfare issue than an employment one, and the Bill will have a severe impact on small employers, although they sympathise with the aims of it.