WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand will grant victims of domestic violence paid leave from work, in a move that activists say will give people the time to move out and seek shelter for themselves and their children without losing their jobs.
Members of Parliament approved a bill allowing the change by a vote of 63 to 57 on Wednesday night, giving domestic abuse survivors, as well as those caring for young victims, 10 days off from work in addition to their regular paid vacations.
Jan Logie, a lawmaker for the left-leaning Green Party who proposed the bill in 2016, said gender-based violence had become “entrenched” in New Zealand and “reaches into workplaces,” with victims often turning up late or missing work altogether.
Ms. Logie said that existing leave allowances were not enough for victims to “deal with the courts, find a new house, go to counseling or support their children dealing with trauma.”
“It doesn’t make sense to tell victims we want them to leave and then force them into poverty when they do,” she said.
New Zealand gave all women the right to vote in 1893, the first self-governing country in the world to do so, and its prime minister, Jacinda Ardern — currently on parental leave — is the third woman to hold the job. But its domestic and sexual violence rates are among the highest in the world.
A 2011 United Nations report said that 30 percent of women in New Zealand had suffered domestic abuse in the previous decade, with 14 percent experiencing sexual violence. A 2017 report in The New Zealand Herald said that the country had “the worst rate of family and intimate-partner violence in the world,” estimating that 525,000 New Zealanders were harmed every year.
“In this beautiful, gutsy, vibrant country of ours, police are called out to a family violence incident every four minutes,” Ms. Logie told Parliament in a speech before the bill was passed.
She said that research from Women’s Refuge, the advocacy organization where she worked before becoming a lawmaker, had found that 60 percent of women in abusive partnerships had full-time jobs when the relationship began, but less than half managed to stay in work.
“Those who stayed faced numerous hardships affecting their future employment prospects, and those who left found it difficult to re-enter the work force,” Ms. Logie said, adding that victims had told her they had been forced to quit jobs, or had been stalked or harassed at work because their former partners knew where to find them.
The law also allows victims of domestic violence to request flexible working arrangements and gives them protection from discrimination.
Lawmakers from New Zealand’s center-right opposition parties voted against the bill, with some who had supported it changing their minds. The opponents argued that extra leave would be too expensive for employers, and suggested that the government should foot the bill instead.
“We believe it will have perverse outcomes for women in the workplace,” said Mark Mitchell, a National Party lawmaker.
Ms. Logie rejected that view, telling the Parliament “We are working off rigorous economic and social research from New Zealand and Australia grounded in the experiences of workplaces already offering these types of protections.”
The cost of putting the policy in place would be “rapidly offset” by the returns from “lower turnover and increased productivity,” Ms. Logie added.
While some businesses already offer paid leave for victims of family violence, the vote by New Zealand’s government enshrined the practice in law. In Australia, victims of domestic abuse are allowed five days’ unpaid leave.
New Zealand’s anti-violence groups welcomed the change in law. Holly Carrington, a spokeswoman for the advocacy organization Shine, said domestic violence was already costing businesses — “not just financially, but, more importantly, the human toll.”
“Without support from their employer, work is not a safe place for victims of domestic violence,” she said, “and these staff get judged and blamed for resulting performance issues and often end up leaving their job.”
In May, Ms. Ardern announced a $52 million increase for family violence services throughout the country over four years. It was the first funding boost for the sector in a decade.
She took office in October on a platform that promised change for ordinary New Zealanders, particularly on women’s and children’s issues.