Surpluses at risk

August 7, 2018

Treasury is warning the government that forecast surpluses are at risk:

. . . It pointed out the latest set of indicators painted a mixed picture of the economy with wages continuing to grow strongly while retail spending weakened.

It said the slump in business sentiment, a cooling housing market and fears of a trade war could knock the economy and the tax take.

If that happened, the government might be forced to curb its spending plans, Treasury said.

The government keeps saying it’s business-friendly but its actions don’t match its words.

Damien Grant writes about the risk policies like the 10 days leave for victims of domestic pose for your business:

We, the business people of this land, are those who create wealth, build roads and dispense antibiotics at 3am. We are responsible for making the payroll, collecting the State’s revenue and satisfying the tyrannical demands of customers.

We are not responsible for solving this country’s problem with domestic violence. At least, we should not be. When we employ someone we are obliged, by law, to give them 10 paid public holidays in addition to 20 annual leave days and up to five sick days. On average, one day in eight, a Kiwi worker can have off on full pay.

Apparently this isn’t enough.

The Domestic Violence-Victims Protection Bill passed this week. Now an employer, who has the misfortune to employ someone impacted by domestic violence, must gift this person another 10 days paid leave.

Forever.

That’s like providing another whole year’s statutory holiday entitlement for any employee who qualifies.

It does not matter if the employee wasn’t the victim, so long as they were impacted by the violence. Nor does it matter if this crime happened decades before they began working for their current employer.

What employer would question someone’s claim to have been affected?

Once you can prove that you have been a victim of domestic violence you are, forever, entitled to be compensated by those whose only mistake was to offer you a job and you cannot contract out of this right. Which means some employers will quietly avoid employing staff they suspect will seek this new entitlement, limiting the employment options for victims of domestic violence. . . 

National was criticised for not supporting the legislation but it was right to be cautious:

When the bill first came up at Parliament it had a strong National Party backing, but following a select committee process in which amendments were made to reduce an employer’s say in the matter, the party got cold feet.

Justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell said that was mostly because of the impact it could have on small-to-medium sized businesses which, he said, could end up in arbitration or strained for time or finance.

“There’s often a second- or third-order effect, and we have to be careful that we understand what those effects may be. At the moment we feel this bill could have an adverse outcome so we’re being very cautious and very careful with it.” . . 

Domestic violence is a scourge but imposing extra costs and uncertainty on all businesses isn’t the solution, especially when, as Kerre McIvoer writes, it won’t help domestic abuse victims: 

I fail to see how this new provision for victims of abuse will save any lives whatsoever.

Every single victim of domestic abuse who has phoned me on talkback over the years has said they were so ashamed and embarrassed by their situation, they couldn’t bring themselves to let friends or family know what was going on behind closed doors. Particularly the men.

The notion of asking for help was anathema to them and abusers know that. Despite the fact that it’s the abusers who should be feeling shame, they are master manipulators.

So the concept of someone who has been knocked about, emotionally and physically, being able to find it within themselves to approach their boss and come clean about their domestic situation seems unlikely.

And it’s not just the financial burden for small- to medium-sized employers that’s most concerning – what about the health and safety ramifications?

If one of their employees tells them they are living with a violent partner then begs them not to tell anyone, and later that employee ends up dead, will the employer be held liable for not divulging that their staffer was at risk? . . 

I absolutely agree that our domestic violence stats are a source of shame and our violent homes are a breeding ground for future offenders. But I really don’t think Logie’s bill is the answer.

And while I don’t have a solution, I would suggest that others do. When Counties Manukau police attend a violent domestic situation, they give it a couple of days to allow all parties to cool off, then go into the home with trained counsellors and try to work out the root of the problem.

The children are asked their opinion – it’s a holistic, wrap-around approach to domestic abuse which gives the people involved the chance to save themselves and their family.

Putting money and energy into that sort of initiative makes a whole lot more sense to me than making businesses cough up 10 days extra leave.

Business is risky.

The more costs and uncertainty the government imposes on businesses, the more risky they become. The more risky businesses become, the less likely they are to invest, the less secure existing jobs become and the less likely new ones will be created.

Less business investment, fewer hours for existing employees and fewer new jobs for would-be workers all result in less tax paid, that means lower surpluses and that in turn constrains government’s ability to fund existing and new initiatives.


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