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Working remotely and family violence: advice to employers

In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many employees are being encouraged or required to work from home. An unintended consequence for employees being abused by an intimate partner or family member, is that they may have to spend more time with that person and thus be at a heightened risk of further abuse. Additional worries or conflict in the wake of COVID-19 about jobs, finances, unwell or elderly family members, and childcare, may also heighten risk of further or more severe abuse in these situations.

NZ Police, the Justice Minister, DVFREE Advisor Holly Carrington, and Women’s Refuge CEO explain more about the potential for a spike in family violence in this Stuff article.

Shine and our DVFREE Team encourage employers to take these steps:


  1. Remind your people that anyone who needs advice about helping someone experiencing family violence can ring the Shine Helpline for support and information at 0508 744 633, 9am to 11pm, 7 days a week www.2shine.org.nz. Additional domestic violence helpline options are: Are you OK at 0800 456 450 (www.areyouok.org.nz) and Women’s Refuge at 0800 733 843 (www.womensrefuge.org.nz).

  2. If you are requiring staff to work remotely from home, consider whether there may be an option for particular staff to work in the office or other secure locations if their home situations are unsafe, and let your people know they can request this by talking to one of your trained First Responders. If you have more than one person using an office space, they will need to sit well away from each other, and don't forget to establish a routine for disinfecting any surface that may be touched by more than one person as often as possible, e.g. doorknob, kitchen taps, light switches, etc.. According to the USA CDC, you can use a diluted bleach solution as a disinfectant: 1/3 cup bleach to 1 gallon water (or 20 ml bleach to 1 litre water).
  3. Consider offering additional financial assistance to employees experiencing domestic violence to help them access needed services. Specialist community domestic violence services are being considered essential services, so helplines, refuges/safe houses and other services will continue to operate through the shut down period, but some services such as safety programmes will likely only be offered by phone during the shutdown. If one of your team needs a service that they are not able to access, we encourage you to be creative in thinking about how you can help meet their needs. For example, if there is no local refuge accommodation available, you might help pay for motel accommodation. If people do use motel accommodation, you may also need to assist with a sanitation kit to disinfect their accommodation including bucket. bleach, rubber gloves and cloths.
  4. Remind your people that staff who are using abuse or violence to (ex) partners or family members can get support to change their behaviour through a specialist non-violence programme: www.2shine.org.nz/get-help/i-am-using-violence. They can find a local programme or just talk to someone for phone support by ringing Shine’s Helpline at 0508-744-633. Another helpline available specifically for this audience is 0800 Hey Bro, run by He Waka Tapu.
  5. Send and re-send, these important messages to your people - ideally from the most senior level of your organisation:

    • If you are experiencing domestic violence, help is available from Shine’s Helpline, and ideally also from your trained First Responders.
    • Domestic violence is not OK.
    • If you know or suspect that a colleague or anyone else is experiencing domestic violence, get advice from Shine’s Helpline on how to help.

A national domestic violence working group with representatives from Shine, Women’s Refuge, the Ministries of Justice and Social Development and others, have begun meeting to discuss service needs for people experiencing domestic violence and the possibility of government support to accommodate these needs. Outcomes from this working group that may be relevant for employers will be shared through this platform and in other places.

We also encourage you to think about whether you or your business may be able to help Shine or your local family violence service provider(s) in any way and to offer that support. Financial donations are always welcome, many services will welcome donations for clients of mobile phones with prepaid SIMs and/or other devices and broadband connection so people can remain connected to support, children can remain connected to their school, etc. And donations may be needed for home sanitation kits (as above), food, nappies, formula, etc.

Finally, you may want to share this link from The Mental Health Foundation with all of your staff to help them get through this difficult time: www.mentalhealth.org.nz/get-help/covid-19/top-tips-to-get-through