New Zealand Law Society - WorkSafe outlines approach to bullying and harassment

WorkSafe outlines approach to bullying and harassment

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WorkSafe says workplace bullying and harassment allegations or concerns often involve employment relations issues and the Employment Relations Act 2000 and Employment Relations Authority are often the best place for these concerns to be raised and remedied.

In a statement on workplace bullying and harassment, WorkSafe says it will always have a role in supporting harm prevention activity, although its investigation and enforcement activity is risk based and targeted at the highest risks and harm.

"This means we will typically only investigate bullying and harassment claims where there is diagnosis of serious mental harm. This is consistent with the approach we take to all risks and harms notified to WorkSafe."

WorkSafe says prosecution under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires the elements of the Act to be proven beyond reasonable doubt and for there to be a public interest in the prosecution occurring.

"This is a higher standard than is required for a successful case under the employment relations legislation. Typically we prosecute around one percent of all matters brought to our attention. While WorkSafe has investigated nearly 10% of bullying cases we have not yet prosecuted any matter."

Noting that at present, bullying is "a very small proportion" of issues raised with WorkSafe, it says it is certainly an emerging issue.

In the past four years WorkSafe says it has had 125 recorded cases that indicate bullying, out of over 10,000 health and safety incidents or events over the period.

"We investigated 11 of the 125 ... and nearly half (57) were either referred to a more appropriate agency (ERA, Police, other) or referred to the PCBU to self-manage."

WorkSafe also has a number of supporting resources for businesses and workers dealing with workplace bullying concerns through its Good Practice Guidelines to Preventing and Responding to Bullying at Work guide and its bullying prevention toolbox.