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NZ businesses create refuges in their workplace for staff

NZ businesses create refuges in their workplace for staff experiencing family violence

The Warehouse Group, Fonterra, and Sky City have all received the Workplace Refuge endorsement recognising their achievements in the family violence space. The endorsement by Women’s Refuge acknowledges and celebrates businesses that are actively providing a Workplace Refuge for staff experiencing family violence.

The endorsement means an organisation has illustrated that family violence is prevented, victims and perpetrators of family violence are helped, communication and networking are increased, initiatives are prioritised, and leadership in driving change is demonstrated.

“When you consider that most people are spending eight plus hours a day at work, having a responsive workplace where family violence can be talked about, and where people being harmed have an opportunity to be supported properly, can also protect against the loss of productivity and added costs involved in on-going harm to employees,” says Women’s Refuge Chief Executive Dr Ang Jury.

The Workplace Refuge endorsement is part of the Women’s Refuge Responsive workplaces programme, a suite of tools to support family violence policy in the workplace. These include in depth training that focuses on response and best practice support, and an early intervention poster campaign that focuses on the subtler early warning signs of family violence, and a microsite that sits on an organisation’s intranet.

The microsite is specifically tailored for business and organisations and contains 5 information elements: information for staff perpetrating violence, for staff experiencing violence, for family and friends of victims, how to get help and support from service providers, and how the organisation can support employees experiencing family violence. The site also contains information on safety planning and the implications of protection orders. While family violence is largely perpetrated by men, the language is non-gender specific and speaks to both women and men, as victims and as perpetrators.

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The Warehouse Groups have adopted the full range of tools offered, with Acting Chief People Officer Julie Simpson explaining the importance of having multiple ways to support staff:

“Being a large organisation with well over 12,000 team members, any issue that impacts New Zealand is an issue that impacts our people. Having a range of policies and effective support systems means that we’re able to help people experiencing family violence get advice and take the time they need to keep safe. We have a strong culture around doing the right thing and supporting others, and we recognise that we’re employing a whole person, not just who someone is at work, so that’s why we’ve invested in policies like our Domestic Violence policy.”

For Fonterra, with around 12,000 employees across the country, the challenge is ensuring that significant change is embedded across all levels of the business according to Social Responsibility Manager, Matt Trent:

“The programme strikes a note with staff that family violence can happen to anyone and has received positive feedback and support from across the company. Since launching we’ve been able to support a few of our staff in tough situations, which I’m really proud we’re able to do. Reinforcing the message and that help is available is an on-going process for us,” he said.
In depth and informative training including a focus on first response is an integral component of the programme, and after the initial training Sky City extended this to include all managers and anyone with direct reports or supervisory duties.

“Given the dynamic and 24/7 nature of our business, a key component of our programme is equipping frontline leaders with the knowledge and tools to support all of our employee community,” says Claire Walker, Group GM Human Resources at SKYCITY.

Women’s Refuge is also currently working with St John’s Ambulances, AA insurance and Downer engineering in developing their family violence policy and providing training.

Dr Jury says, “We are very proud of these organisations for taking the lead in incorporating family violence initiatives and policy in to their business, and it has been an honour to partner with them from providing their staff with in depth workplace training, to hearing about how useful the different tools have been; these are businesses that are looking at solutions and ways to support their staff that goes above and beyond standard family violence policy.”

To find out more about Women’s Refuge Responsive Workplaces programme, go to


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