It’s a sad fact that New Zealand has the highest rate of reported family and intimate partner violence in the OECD. Through training people-leaders and adopting a family violence policy, your company can recognise staff members at risk and those who pose a risk to others, provide support to victims, and aim to prevent any negative flow-on effects from occurring in the workplace.

The stats

According to statistics from the Public Service Association, in a given year, close to 50 percent of all New Zealand organisations will have staff affected by family violence in some way.

The statistics from the Ministry of Social Development’s ‘Are you ok?’ campaign are frightening:

  • 1 in 3 women have experienced sexual or physical abuse from a partner
  • 50% of all homicides and violent crime is family violence
  • Police respond to a family violence callout every 7 minutes
  • The cost to New Zealand of family violence is $8bn per year
  • Police estimate only 18% of family violence is reported.

Unfortunately, working from home can exacerbate family violence issues and make them easier to hide, so for those with staff on flexible working agreements or for those working from home during lockdowns, this becomes an even more important issue to address.

Family violence is a workplace issue

Aside from the devastating impact on the victim and those around them, family violence can have a huge impact on the workplace, whether it be virtual or physical.

If a staff member is a victim of family violence, they will likely be distressed, depressed, anxious and/or fearful, which may cause them to be distracted and unable to focus on tasks. Other staff members may be in danger, especially if they are seen to be helping the victim. The victim may need to take time off work or even leave their job if the situation becomes unmanageable, if they are forced to by the perpetrator, or if they are placed under a protection order.

Additionally, those who have been witness to, or suffered from, family violence can have a range of issues, from self-harm and addiction to psychosis and PTSD.

If there is a perpetrator of family violence in the workplace, their violent tendencies may mean they pose a risk to other staff. They may use work time to monitor or harass their victim, or they may have a protection order against them which prevents them from coming to the workplace. They may also need to take time off to attend court or undertake a violence prevention programme, or even be incarcerated for their crimes.

How businesses can act against family violence

It is the nature of family violence that it can be difficult to recognise. Not all violence is physical and victims often become savvy at hiding the evidence. However, there are warning signs, processes, and support services which employers should be aware of.

Workplaces can play an important role in preventing family violence through providing family-friendly inclusive environments and support for staff affected by family violence. Here are 3 things you can do to ensure you have the correct processes in place, and that your staff and leaders are equipped to deal with the effects of family violence.

1. Get a Family Violence Policy

For employers, it is important to be able to recognise signs that an employee is at risk, and then to know what to do about it. This should be formally addressed in a Family Violence Policy. A tailor-made policy document should be a well acknowledged part of company processes. The policy should include checklists for keeping staff safe, with clear steps for managers to follow if they believe a staff member requires help, either as a victim or perpetrator of family violence.

The Family Violence Policy should also state contractual entitlements around how the employer will approach leave requests and the specific needs of the victim, should they require changes of address or safe zones, for example. Having this all set out in writing, with training to back it up, can prove invaluable in a crisis situation.

2. Train your Leaders

Specialised training is available and should be undertaken by all leadership staff to ensure everyone has the knowledge to be able to approach this often-sensitive subject.

A comprehensive training programme will cover everything from the legal obligations for employers in such situations and how to provide support for a victim, to how to approach and maintain confidentiality.

3. Raise employee awareness

Staff should be made aware of the Family Violence Policy and guided through their rights as an employee, the processes and options available to them. In workplaces with large or remote teams this can be done by attending online webinars tailored specifically to the company’s policy.

Having a workplace that is safe from violence is an integral part of Health and Safety requirements. If staff members come from safe and healthy homes, managers should see less absenteeism, greater productivity, less staff turnover, fewer safety risks and better overall morale from happier staff.

At Freerange Works, our highly trained expert consultants can work with you to create a tailor-made family violence policy and deliver specialised training to your leaders and employees. If you would like to discuss this further, please get in touch at