Vodafone's family violence policy 'may save lives'

Vodafone's family violence policy 'may save lives'

A domestic violence organisation says Vodafone putting a family violence policy in place for staff helps create momentum to tackle one of New Zealand's biggest problems.

Vodafone is now offering its employees 'family violence leave' which it says could help save lives.

The telco has announced its 3000 workers can now apply for up to 10 additional days of paid leave a year as well as other measures to help them deal with what is an epidemic across New Zealand.

Domestic violence organisation Shine says those kinds of public declarations are important considering one in three New Zealand women are physically or sexually assaulted by a partner in their lifetime.

The policy follows The Warehouse, which last year made extra paid leave available for its 12,000 staff nationwide on top of existing leave to get medical treatment, attend court and seek refuge without added financial pressure.

Vodafone staff will also be able to change their work patterns including hours, where they work from and their duties. They can also change phone numbers and email addresses.

Chief executive Russell Stanners says it'll mean affected staff and staff supporting victims can get the time off work they need without having to worry about money.

"We know that the impact of family violence is not isolated to the home, nor does it discriminate based on gender, age, education or social status. Family violence affects us all, and workplaces have a huge role to play in addressing this issue," Mr Stanners said.

"These measures may help save lives. It will make it easier for people to leave violent relationships, and stay in employment. It will also keep victims safe at work from their abusers."

Shine spokeswoman Holly Carrington says it was great to hear more businesses were "taking ownership" of the issue and hoped other businesses would follow.

"Part of the recognition for businesses like Vodafone is that not only are they doing the right thing helping their staff, but helps them as a business to be more productive, to retain their biggest asset which is their staff," she said.

"We know domestic violence is an epidemic in this country and, especially if you're a large employer, it is affecting your workforce and it's a matter of time before that becomes more obvious to people."

She says every company which follows suit will be helping to build momentum which would hopefully mean such policies become the norm, rather than "an additional, optional extra".

Vodafone's policy was developed over the past year with the Human Rights Commission, Women's Refuge, The Warehouse Group, ANZ and other businesses to "understand the wider impact of family violence".

Vodafone human resources director Antony Welton says the workplace can sometimes be the only safe places where victims can get support and information.

"We believe it is vital for our business to be equipped and ready to help."

Mr Welton believes businesses have an important role in "shaping the society we all want to live in".

Ms Carrington says it will also be important to develop the policy to make it more effective, including training and raising awareness for staff.

"That's a critical part - if victims finally get the courage to tell someone what's going on and they don't get a good response in that initial disclosure they're likely to clam up and not tell anyone and not take it any further."