How should HR respond to suspicions of domestic violence?
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the developed world, with police responding to a family violence incident every four minutes.
However, an increasing number of organisations are taking specific, meaningful steps to create a workplace that is safe and supportive for staff experiencing domestic violence.
Indeed, the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and the Social Investment Agency (SIA) have both been awarded the DVFREE (Domestic Violence Free) Tick from Shine, New Zealand’s specialist domestic violence non-for-profit.
This comes after HRC took on a formal role in the implementation of the Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act that came into effect on 1st April 2019.
This Act updated the Human Rights Act so that it is now illegal for employers to discriminate against an employee, or potential employee, on the basis of being affected by domestic violence.
From 1st April, people who believe they have been discriminated against on this basis can make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission.
Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said domestic violence is the one of the most serious human rights issue facing New Zealanders, and “possibly the most serious for New Zealand women”.
“It was important for the Commission to be well-prepared for our role responding to complaints of discrimination on the basis of domestic violence under the new legislation, so we brought in Shine to provide intensive training for our entire Enquiries and Complaints Team,” said Hunt.
“We also felt it was vital for the Commission to lead by example in providing the best possible support for our own employees who experience domestic violence, so at the same time, we have been working towards the DVFREE Tick.”
SIA and HRC are the sixth and seventh employers to be awarded the DVFREE Tick by Shine.
SIA Director Corporate Lynda Jelbert said that SIA recognizes domestic violence as a significant social problem, and recognises the need to invest in solutions.
“At SIA we care about our people, as they are at the heart of what we do,” said Jelbert. “We have prioritised making SIA a great place to work and this includes making it a place where people feel safe and supported.
“With such high rates of domestic violence in New Zealand, we know it can happen to anyone at anytime, and we want to be part of the solution.”
Shine’s DVFREE Advisor Holly Carrington said it’s great to welcome both agencies to the DVFREE Tick whanau.
“These are two organisations that are, at the heart of what they do, about creating a better New Zealand,” said Carrington.
“Achieving the DVFREE Tick demonstrates that both organisations have taken important steps towards this goal by supporting their own people who may experience domestic violence.
“The Human Rights Commission and the Social Investment Agency have both shown true commitment to the wellbeing of their employees through this achievement.”
Carrington added that it’s also great to know that HRC staff are well-prepared to respond to anyone making a formal complaint of discrimination on the basis of domestic violence under the new legislation.
Specialist training for their Enquiries and Complaints Team will help ensure they are well-equipped to address callers’ concerns about discrimination at the same time as proactively addressing any immediate needs for safety and support.
In addition to creating a new Domestic Violence Policy, updating other policies, and adding information and education about domestic violence to their staff intranet, the DVFREE Tick has seen SIA and HRC train key staff as ‘First Responders’ and train all of their managers.
Consequently, first responders are now equipped to respond to domestic violence disclosures, create safety plans if needed, and provide ongoing support for staff affected by domestic violence.