Business shouldn't fear domestic violence act -Warehouse CEO

By Mānia Clarke-Mamanu

The CEO of New Zealand's largest retail group, The Warehouse, says the new domestic violence act is more cost-effective for businesses in the long run. 

Pejman Okhovat says employers shouldn't be reluctant to embrace the Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act, which allows victims up to 10 days paid leave.

Okhovat says the well-being of  employees is key to good business.

“The real cost is the cost of not addressing this and bringing it to the surface and providing the support,” he says.

“Because often the victims will take time off.  They go off sick repeatedly, they actually won't be at work quite a lot.  But by doing this and helping them resolve the issues they can get back to work, have a better life at work so they can support the families better at home.”

Despite concerns from some businesses, the protection act allowing victims up to 10 days paid leave and ordering changes in work conditions to ensure their safety passed its final reading.

“They are already carrying the costs of women who are experiencing domestic violence,” says Women’s Refuge NZ CEO, Dr Ange Jury, “They're seeing it in absenteeism, they're seeing it in losing people, they're seeing it in low productivity.”

In 2015, The Warehouse voluntarily introduced an anti-family violence policy in consultation with Women's Refuge New Zealand.  It includes counseling support, zero-harassment policies and now wider training for staff.

“We've done a very comprehensive training programme for all our regions and organisations,” says Okhovat.

“All our management team have gone through a training programme that helps and enables them to deal with the victims when they speak out or when they seek support.”

“What it's going to do is allow them to keep valuable staff,” says Jury.

“They're not going to be losing people that they've invested in with training and professional development.” 

The act will become law early next year.