Posted on: May 16, 2017

The new Health and Safety at Work (HSAW) Act 2015 makes it clear that employers’ are obligated to prevent bullying and harrasment in the workplace. WorkSafe NZ has also made new guidelines available online which highlights employers’ duty of care under the HSWA, and as such there is now a better understanding of bullying in the workplace and the costs associated with it.

We take this opportunity to let you know why it is important that you, as the business owner (or Person Conducting Business or Undertaking “PCBU”), understand your obligations under the HSWA (and other relevant Acts), and the importance of keeping your workers safe.  Educating your employees at all levels (Officers, employees, contractors and other persons) that bullying and harassment will not be tolerated and encouraging respect in the workplace will reduce your risk and ensure your employees feel safe and valued.

Bullying at work is defined in the WorkSafe NZ guidelines as:

“a repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that can lead to physical or psychological harm.”

There are many laws that are concerned with bullying, which include the Employment Relations Act 2000, Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (Harm), Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 (cyberbullying), Human Rights Act 1993 (harassment and discrimination), and the Crimes Act 1961 (lawful charges).  Each of these have different levels of penalties depending on the seriousness and the effect on the individuals involved.

Educating you and your employees

The best prevention is by starting to educate your employees and managers about what bullying is and having a clear understanding that it will not be tolerated.  We’d like to recommend ways you can do this by:

  • Develop a policy that aligns with your values and policies in the workplace. Communicate this throughout the organisation.

This will give everyone clear expectations as to what to expect and a clear path for stopping any untoward action against themselves or others.

  • Talk about prevention in team meetings, toolbox meetings, and provide information, resources and support.

Ensure that you develop your key people, and health and safety representatives first.   These people can be facilitators in educating employees and are trained to observe and work immediately to address any behaviours that are of concern. You should deal with any one-off incidents quickly to ensure they do not escalate.  Also, having an Employee Assistance Programme available or a designated person that employees can talk to in confidence can be valuable.

  • Process for reporting complaints and conducting investigations.

Employees will feel supported if they know what they can report, and who they can refer their complaints or concerns to.  Once established, ensure you follow your prescribed process, and ensure that it is transparent and consistent for all parties.

  • Review that your processes are working.

All safety processes and work policies should have a review process that are open to amendment for continuous improvement.  With changes in law and updates through guidelines or case law, you need to revisit and review your policies on a regular basis.

How we can help you

Working proactively with your team improves efficiency, productivity and employee morale.  Should you require any assistance for policies, training your employees or understanding the risk for your business, please do not hesitate to call one of our team and we can discuss the available options with you.

Our conflict resolution experts are also experienced in facilitating cultural changes in organisations where interpersonal communication and behaviours have gone astray.  We can assist by bringing workplace interactions back on track and preventing undesirable behaviours from causing harm to your employees.

While our team is keen to see education and prevention first, if you do receive a complaint, please let us know and we can help step you through a fair process of response.



This article, and any information contained on our website is necessarily brief and general in nature, and should not be substituted for professional advice. You should always seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters addressed.