From 13 June 2023 employees will have 12 months to raise a personal grievance related to sexual harassment.
The Employment Relations (Extended Time for Personal Grievance for Sexual Harassment) Amendment Act allows employees more time to raise a personal grievance, rising from 90 days to 12 months. For all other personal grievances, the time to notify the employer is unchanged at 90 days.
The new time applies to sexual harassment events that happened, or came to the notice of the employee, on or after 13 June 2023. The new time applies even if the employee leaves the employment during the 12-month period.
Reporting sexual harassment can be difficult. It is common for victims of sexual harassment to wait a long time before coming forward, if at all. The change will improve the personal grievance process for victims of sexual harassment which has occurred in their employment by allowing them more time to consider what has happened before deciding to come forward.
Impact on employment agreements
By law, all employment agreements must include a plain explanation stating how to get help to resolve employment relationship problems. This must include the time to raise a personal grievance.
From 13 June 2023:
- Employers must include the modified time in new employment agreements.
- Employers don’t need to update existing employment agreements. Employees and employers are covered by the modified time in the Act, regardless of the time noted in any employment agreement.
- However, under their good faith obligations, employers should discuss updating the agreements the next time they review them with their employees. Any changes must be agreed by both parties and should be recorded in writing.
- New employment agreement templates can be created by using the MBIE Employment Agreement Builder Tool.
If you need help to resolve the personal grievance, you can access free, impartial mediation through MBIE. An independent person called a mediator helps employers and employees to resolve the problem in a semi-formal and confidential environment.
As an employee, if you require support you may wish to contact a community service provider such as Citizens Advice Bureau, Community Law, a union, or a private advisor such as a lawyer or employment advocate. There are also a wide range of service providers who can help you if you are a victim of sexual harassment depending on your circumstances.
As an employer if you require support services you may wish to contact a business association, industry body, chamber of commerce or a professional service provider such as a lawyer.
If the sexual harassment involves assault, threats of harm or violence, this should be reported to the Police.