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Family Violence and New Zealand Workplaces


Two significant reports have been released on family violence as a workplace issue

Economist Suzanne Snively’s report, Productivity Gains from Workplace Protection of Victims of Domestic Violence, finds that domestic violence will cost New Zealand employers at least $368 million over the next year and that workplace protections can help reduce this cost and increase productivity.  This report was commissioned by the PSA. Read the full report here.


Meg Raynor Thomas’s thesis for her Masters in Public Health at Auckland University, The Impacts of Domestic Violence on Workers and the Workplace, reports on a survey of PSA members’ experience.  55% of those who completed the survey reported some experience of domestic violence.  26% had direct experience of family violence and of those members, 53% needed to take time off work and 38% said that the violence made it difficult for them to get to work.  Read the full report here and our press release here.


PSA presence at Whangarei march against family violence

At the end of January, about 500 people marched in Whangarei against family violence.  The PSA was there in support.

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PSA members are taking part in a research project looking at the impacts of family violence on work here in New Zealand. 10, 000 randomly selected members were recently invited to take part in a about their experience of family violence in relation to their work and workplace.  We’re doing this survey in partnership with the New Zealand Family Violence Clearning House of Auckland University. The results of the survey will help the PSA better reflect the needs of members, and we hope will also inform government and employer policy settings and support measures around family violence.  

Some groups of members have shown strong support for dealing with the issue of family violence in their workplace.  Workplace support for those experiencing family violence is on the table in bargaining in a number of organisations and we’ll report back to you on progress with this.  PSA delegate Marshall Tangaroa is Working with the It’s Not OK team to lead a project on family violence and work at his workplace, Whanganui Prison.  If you are interested in raising this issue at your workplace, please talk to your PSA delegate or organiser.

Why family violence is a workplace issue

What happens at home can affect what happens at work While family violence may not at first appear to be a union or workplace issue, there is now international evidence that those with a history of family violence have a more disrupted work history, are consequently on lower personal incomes, have had to change jobs more often and are employed at higher levels in casual and part-time work than those with no experience of violence.

Those who are victims of family violence may:
     • Be distressed, depressed, anxious, distracted or fearful at work
     • Need to take time off work to attend court, seek medical attention, counselling or other support
     • Leave their job because they are hiding from their abuser
     • Have a protection order which could have implications for the workplace (e.g. the violent person cannot contact or go

       to the workplace)

     • Have the ability to work sabotaged by the violent person (e.g. through damage to their car so that they are

        late for work or work taken home may be destroyed).

Those who are perpetrators of family violence may:
     • Pose a risk to the victim’s colleagues
     • Pose a risk to workers and clients in their own workplace
     • Use work time and resources to harass, stalk and monitor their victim (e.g. calling the victim many times a day      
       to control what they are doing)
     • Have a protection order against them, which means that they are not allowed access to weapons (guns, knives etc.)
     • Need to take time off to attend court or stopping violence programmes.


What can you do?

Union members can play an important role in leading change in their workplace and community, as well as helping victims and perpetrators.  Some things you could do include:

Raise awareness
•    Put posters and leaflets around the workplace, including staff rooms and bathrooms
•    Invite speakers to talk about family violence, positive parenting and healthy relationships
•    Build family violence prevention messages into family-friendly events and projects
•    Include information about family violence, and where to get help in your newsletters
•    Link your websites, Facebook and emails with the It’s Not OK family violence information

Increase understanding and action
•    Organise family violence awareness training for union members
•    Use meetings to talk about how people can help if they know or suspect that a workmate is experiencing
      family violence
•    Support some people to become family violence prevention champions so they can lead change in their area
•    Connect with your local family violence network or services to get involved in their  local family violence prevention
     activities and access training

Develop healthy policies
•    Ensure clauses relating to support for victims of violence are included in employment agreements
•    Ensure workplaces have a policy around what to do if someone knows or suspects abuse is happening
     (linked to Health and Safety and Staff Well-being policies)
•    Ensure workplaces have contact people who have training in responding to family violence and harassment.


Be ready when someone asks for help
•    Look at the how to help information on the Its Not OK website
•    Make sure you have a list of local services that can provide help, so you know where to refer people
     (you can also call them to find out what you can do as a helper).
•    Keep all disclosures confidential
•    Think about the immediate practical things that may help victims such as allowing flexi-time or time off, relocating to
     a safe area not accessible to members of the public, alerting security guards, or having someone escorting them
     to their car.
•    Take all threats of family violence seriously
•    Call 111 if someone is in danger, even if you are not sure.