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Health and safety: Retaliation because you stuck up for your rights in the workplace

Personal grievance for retaliation around health and safety issues

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 103(1)(j); Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, s 89

You can take a personal grievance if your employer fires you or otherwise disadvantages you to get back at you (“retaliation”) for some action you’ve taken relating to health and safety.

This includes, for example, if:

  • you’ve stopped work on health and safety grounds
  • you’ve raised a health and safety issue with the employer or with the health and safety representative for your work
  • you’ve exercised your powers as the workplace health and safety rep – like instructing workers there not to do dangerous work, or
  • you’ve given assistance or information to a health and safety inspector from Worksafe New Zealand.

Proving your health and safety personal grievance

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 110A

The health and safety ground for a personal grievance covers the following kinds of retaliation from your employer:

  • firing you
  • forcing you to quit or retire
  • not giving you the same conditions or benefits as other similar workers, and
  • not giving you the same opportunities for training, promotion or transfer as other similar workers.

You can also have a personal grievance claim if your employer coerces you or pressures you to try to get you to do something, or not do something, relating to health and safety – for example, if they pressure you not to cooperate with health and safety inspectors.

For your personal grievance to succeed, the health and safety issue must have been “a substantial reason” for the employer’s retaliation. However, the law assumes that it was a substantial reason, and it will be up to the employer to prove that it wasn’t.

The employer will have a defence if they prove that what they did was reasonable in the situation and that they did it to comply with the health and safety laws.

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Resolving employment problems

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw. org.nz

Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice if you’re facing problems at work.

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment


The Employment Relations website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment has a range of information on personal grievances, mediation, the Employment Relations Authority and the Employment Court. This includes a pamphlet contained information on all those topics, called “Solving Problems at Work”.

Free phone 0800 20 90 20, for general enquiries about resolving employment problems.

Early Resolution Service


The Early Resolution Service is a service offered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. It is a free phone-based service to help employees and employers resolve workplace issues before it becomes too serious or needs a more formal process.

For more information on the Early Resolution Service, you can fill out the form on www.employment.govt.nz or call 0800 20 90 20.

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

Employment Relations Authority


If you’re unable to settle at mediation, the next step is to file your claim in the Employment Relations Authority. For more information, visit the Authority’s website.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi


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

Union members should contact their union for support in resolving problems at work.

Immigration New Zealand


Free phone: 0508 558 855
Phone: (09) 914 4100 (Auckland)
Phone: (04) 910 9915 (Wellington)

The Immigration New Zealand website has extensive information about the various types of visas and other immigration issues. There is also specific information on human trafficking and the help that’s available for people trapped in these situations.

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