Family Violence is a Workplace Issue

“Well, you look put together, you look all right, what is wrong with you?‘ That was how Melanie Brown MBE of Spice Girls and Jenny Craig fame described the reaction to her experience of being in an abusive relationship for a decade but keeping it a secret.

Our country has the highest rate of domestic abuse per capita in the world. Since our country was hit by the Covid-19 crisis, 2020 saw a rapid increase in family violence statistics and it has been predicted that this will increase further increase by 2025.

Family violence is a workplace issue. It often goes undetected at work because often workers are uncomfortable coming forward and managers and colleagues are uncomfortable dealing with a matter they consider personal.

In 2017 the Court of Appeal noted that the fact that an employee is generally happy and self-confident is largely irrelevant to the question of whether the employee was subjected to family violence. The point being that just because a person appears robust and resilient in the workplace, where they are not at risk of violence, doesn’t mean that they are not feeling vulnerable in another environment such as their home.

Since 2019, employees affected by family violence became entitled to 10 days’ paid family violence leave. They can also request short-term flexible working arrangements to help manage the effects of family violence. If injured due to a family violence situation and unable to work because of their injuries, the employee can use Family Violence Leave to top up the 80% paid by ACC.

The point I am trying to make is - don’t assume that it’s none of your business as an employer because it is something that happens outside of work. The reality is, an employee who has their ability to work sabotaged by an abusive, violent or controlling person is also a cost to your business due to lost productivity. If you lose that employee, you face recruitment and/or retraining costs.

Employers will reap the benefits by taking a constructive approach to dealing with family violence.

Employers should educate their staff about Family Violence Leave. It’s time to remove the stigma and make sure your employees feel supported in the workplace.