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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 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

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

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

Website: www.employment.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 20 90 20
Information about resolving problems at work: www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems
Early Resolution Service (free phone-based service to resolve issues before they become serious): www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/early-resolution
Free Mediation Services: www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/mediation

Te Kauae Kaimah/New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Te Kauae Kaimah 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.

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

Labour inspectorate

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

Website: www.mbie.govt.nz/position-descriptions/employment-services/labour-inspector-employment-services and www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/labour-inspectorate
Phone: 0800 20 90 20

Employment Relations Authority (ERA)

If you’re unable to settle at mediation (see under “Mediation of Business, Innovation & Employment” above), the next step is to file your claim in the ERA.

Website: www.era.govt.nz
For contact details in your local area: www.era.govt.nz/footer/contact-us

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