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Health and safety protections

Bullying in the workplace

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, s 36

Although the health and safety laws don’t specifically mention workplace bullying, they require employers to make sure you have a safe working environment, and this will include making sure it’s free from workplace bullying.

The courts have generally defined workplace bullying as:

Kneebone v Schizophrenia Fellowship Waikato Inc (Employment Relations Authority, Akld, AA31/07, 13 Feb 2007)

  • repeated actions
  • carried out with the desire to gain power and exert dominance, and
  • carried out with the intention to cause fear and distress.

The actions have to be more than just strong management.

WorkSafe New Zealand has released best practice guidelines for employers about how to prevent and respond to workplace bullying. Go to www.worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/bullying

Note: For information about what you can do if you’re being bullied in the community or online, see the chapter, “Harassment and bullying”.

What should I do if I’m being bullied at work?

If you’re being bullied by your manager or employer, you could seek advice from your organisation’s Human Resources manager, from Mediation Services at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), from WorkSafe NZ’s health and safety inspectorate, from your union, or from your local Community Law Centre.

If you’re being bullied by a co-worker, you need to tell your employer. Once an employer is aware of bullying, they should take reasonable steps to ensure the workplace is safe. If your employer doesn’t do this, you may have grounds to raise a personal grievance for unjustified disadvantage. See above, “What does the duty to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ mean?”, and for personal grievances, see the chapter “Resolving employment problems”.

Because bullying can be hard to prove, and can involve a pattern of small or subtle actions over time, it is a good idea to keep a record every time you feel you have been bullied.

Stress in the workplace

Workplace stress can be caused by factors like unreasonable hours or workloads, workplace restructuring, and a lack of health and safety precautions against hazards. But you must raise it with your employer so they have to opportunity to manage it.

Options available to manage your stress could be offering sick leave, providing support like counselling, changing your duties, reducing hours (with your agreement), or moving you to an alternative role (again with your agreement).

If you’ve raised the issue with your employer and they haven’t done anything about it, you can seek advice from your union or Worksafe.

Note: If you’re experiencing stress outside of the workplace, for example, a relationship breakdown, your employer isn’t responsible for managing that stress, but they may have assistance available to you such as the Employee Assistance Programme.

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Employment conditions and protections

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw.org.nz

Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and, depending on your situation, may also be able to provide ongoing support.

“Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options during and after pregnancy” (booklet)

This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.

Order hard copies from:

Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley

Phone (04) 499 2928

Email: publications@wclc.org.nz or visit www.communitylaw.org.nz to buy a copy or access free online

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

www.employment.govt.nz

Free phone 0800 20 90 20, for general enquiries about employment relations, pay and holidays.

The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of publications on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Labour inspectors

Labour inspectors monitor and enforce minimum employment conditions. To refer a problem to a labour inspector, you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment on:

Free phone 0800 20 90 20

Worksafe New Zealand, Mahi Haumaru Aotearoa

www.worksafe.govt.nz

Free phone: 0800 030 040

Worksafe New Zealand’s website has a range of information and publications on workplace health and safety issues.

Parental leave payments

www.ird.govt.nz/topics/paid-parental-leave

The Inland Revenue website has information on parental leave payments.

Whistle-blowing (“Protected disclosures” by employees)

www.ombudsman.govt.nz

Free phone: 0800 802 602
Email: info@ombudsman.parliament.nz

The Office of the Ombudsman provides information and guidance to employees about making a protected disclosure.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi

www.union.org.nz

Phone: (04) 385 1334
Email: info@nzctu.org.nz

The NZCTU is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

Also available as a book

The Community Law Manual

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