New Zealand Law Society - Review for Human Rights Commission procedures and culture

Review for Human Rights Commission procedures and culture

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Justice Minister Andrew Little has announced there will be a review of the procedures and organisational culture at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.

This follows recent publicity about the handling of allegations of sexual harassment at the Commission.

The review will be led by retired Employment Court Judge Coral Shaw.

“It is vital that New Zealanders have trust and confidence in the Human Rights Commission as New Zealand’s authority for dealing with complaints about sexual harassment," Mr Little says.

"I am concerned by recent reported events. An independent inquiry is necessary to look at the Commission’s processes and culture."

The terms of reference are:

  • The systems and processes for investigating and resolving sexual harassment claims used by the Human Rights Commission, having regard to legal and other public sector standards and the fact the Commission is expected to be an exemplar in this respect; and
  • Whether the governance and management structures and arrangements of the Human Rights Commission adequately support the prudent handling of sexual harassment claims; and
  • The organisational culture of the Human Rights Commission.

The Review will be conducted pursuant to section 132 of the Crown Entities Act 2004, which allows a responsible Minister to review the operations and performance of a Crown entity at any time.

Commission response

A statement issued by the Commission says it supports the announcement for a review regarding sexual harassment claims.

Chief Commissioner David Rutherford says the Commission aims to be "an exemplar in the prevention of sexual harassment at work and in the management and resolution of any complaints of sexual harassment".

"As the Human Rights Commission we want to lead the way and demonstrate best practice in prevention and response. We look forward to addressing any recommendations of the review."

Mr Rutherford says the Commission has confidence that the "recently published sexual harassment complaint" was handled in accordance with Commission policies.

"However if there is anything we could improve we want to know about it," he says.