New Zealand Issues First Guidelines on Workplace Bullying
The first comprehensive guidelines for preventing and responding to workplace bullying have been released in New Zealand by the WorkSafe New Zealand (WorkSafe NZ) and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
The guidelines define workplace bullying as “repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.“Repeated behaviour” is persistent and can take into consideration a range of actions over time and “Unreasonable behaviour” means actions that a reasonable person in the same situation would see as senseless such as victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening another person.
Like harassment, bullying can take occur within any workplace relations:
Bullying may come in different forms:
§ undermining actions,
§ intentionally excluding individuals,
§ belittling and condescending behaviour,
§ intimidating another person, so on.
The following outlines Mandatory Requirements:
§ Under Health and Safety Regulation, it is necessary for the employers to take all necessary and practical steps the ensure employees’ safety and protect them from unsafe or risky behaviour such as bullying.
§ Employers may face legal liability – including prosecution (under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992) and grievance claims from affected employee, if they fail to deal with reported bullying issues.
§ The WorkSafe NZ’s guidelines specifically address the duties required to deal with bullying including proactive steps to prevent and respond to deal with bullying by the health and safety representatives, line managers, human resource managers and other members of management.
§ Conducting investigations into an allegation of bullying.
Employees are also asked to be mindful of bullying and contribute to the enforcement of policies and reporting of issues:
§ Under the Regulation of health and safety and human rights, employees can be legally responsible if they try to bullysomeone at the workplace.
§ The guidelines contain advice, various detailed flow charts and solutions to the issues that employees may commonly face.
§ The reporting of bullying may fall on the employee and guidelinesto do so have been provided as well as a helpline number.
Companies with operations in New Zealand are advised to take appropriate actions to fulfil the requirements of the new bullying guidelines in order to avoid possible penal consequences. Companies must comply with various obligations such as bullying policy, carrying out serious and fair investigation, taking necessary disciplinary action, publishing relevant notices, etc.
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