Health and safety protections
Bullying in the workplace
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:
- 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:
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.