WELLINGTON (AFP) - New Zealand's parliament passed legislation on Wednesday (July 25) granting paid leave to domestic violence victims, with supporters calling it a groundbreaking measure to help those trying to escape abusive relationships.
Green Party lawmaker Jan Logie said granting victims 10 days of extra leave a year would allow them to "stop the violence and get help without worrying about losing their jobs".
"This is a win for victims, a win for employers, and a win for society," Ms Logie said, describing the move as a "world first" after parliament approved the Bill by 63 votes to 57.
It is the first western country to introduce nationwide paid domestic violence leave. The Philippines in 2004 granted 10 days of paid leave to those suffering domestic violence.
Australia's Fair Work Commission in March voted to allow five days of unpaid leave for domestic abuse victims, but a labour union push to match the New Zealand proposal was rejected.
Official data shows New Zealand has one of the highest domestic violence rates in the developed world, with family homicide rates more than twice those of Australia, Canada and Britain on a per capita basis.
Ms Logie, part of a progressive coalition government elected last year, said intervention aimed at helping domestic violence victims often came too late.
"We wait until things get really bad or someone gets killed and then we wring our hands," she said.
Ms Logie said the leave entitlement would give those seeking to escape violent relationships time to perform practical tasks such as attending court dates, moving house and settling children in new schools.
The conservative opposition National Party opposed the legislation, saying it was well intentioned but could affect victims' chances of getting a job.
"Employers will start to filter and look at whether or not they want to hire someone that may present a risk around domestic violence because ultimately it could impact on their business," National's justice spokesman Mark Mitchell told Newshub.
New Zealand has a track record of being progressive on women's issues - in 1893 it became the first country to give women the right to vote.