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Improve workplaces, and address domestic violence

Last week the Productivity Commission put out a report about how to grow “weak labour productivity”. These views are being criticised as being straight out of the 1980s. What is a real problem is that we have a problem of productivity gains not being passed on to workers.

As a country, we need to support our business owners to turn around our rather woeful health and safety, poor training and development and bullying workplace culture. The Government has made some tentative moves on health and safety but there is more we could do. This would benefit our society as well as improving productivity.

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(Graph source: NZCTU)

Addressing domestic violence through the workplace would improve productivity. My member’s bill was drawn from the ballot last week and is a tangible measure that could help support business to change this culture. My bill provides workplace protections for victims of domestic violence.

The primary purpose of the bill is to help victims stay safe at work and keep their jobs because we know work provides a pathway to safety. With one in three women in NZ experiencing intimate partner violence over her lifetime, it’s pretty clear we need to start intervening earlier and thinking outside of square. I’m unapologetic about this focus. To be honest I don’t really understand why anyone who had the chance to save a life or help someone in danger, would say “not my problem.” I absolutely understand they might say, “I don’t know how”. My bill addresses that.

However there are other benefits to my bill including to workplace productivity.  New Zealand research estimated the annual economic cost including loss of productivity of domestic violence was between $1.2 billion to $7 billion.

It has been said that my bill is putting the cost of the behaviour of abusers onto employers, but actually the opposite is true. Productivity costs such as lost wages and days off work are $954.1 million. Workplace protections will help reduce the cost on businesses.

Businesses are losing great employees for two main reasons – 1) because their hours and location at work are fixed so they are a target at work and 2) the behaviour of their abuser is leading to such an effect on their wellbeing that their work performance is compromised.

Further to this, domestic violence can add work and stress onto colleagues and managers. Many employers are catching on to this and some progressive businesses are already implementing the policies laid out in this Bill. For example, The Warehouse has introduced leave for victims of domestic violence and the Auckland Chamber of Commerce supports my bill.

We have an epidemic of domestic violence in this country and my Bill provides some avenues in which we can help women have a safer pathway out of violence, as well as ultimately helping employers keep great staff members. I think it’s high time we get on with investing in solutions that will have a real positive impact on the lives of women who experience domestic violence, and I hope that MPs from all parties will get onboard and support this Bill.