If you feel bullied, harassed or discriminated against

If you think you are being bullied or harassed or discriminated against at work, you can deal with the matter yourself, ask someone to help informally, or make a formal complaint.

Getting advice and support

If you feel bullied, harassed or discriminated against at work, you could first talk to a trusted person to ‘sense check’ that what you are experiencing is indeed bullying, harassment or discrimination.

If your workplace has relevant policies or processes, you should follow these. There may be trained people — for example, managers, a health and safety or human resources representative, or a delegate in your workplace — who can advise you.

Remember, you are entitled to have a support person present at interviews and meetings.

There is also useful information on the WorkSafe and Human Rights Commission Te Kāhui Tika Tangata websites, including definitions and examples of bullying and harassment.

Bullying at work: Advice for workers – WorkSafe(external link)

Sexual harassment – WorkSafe(external link)

What is unlawful discrimination – Human Rights Commission(external link)

Dealing with the issue yourself

Some employees may feel comfortable dealing with an issue themselves. This could be done by writing to the person or by speaking to them in private, perhaps with a support person present.

A record of what is discussed and agreed should be kept in case the behaviour is repeated

What you can do informally

You can, if you wish, ask your direct manager to step in informally. If the person accused of bullying or harassment is the direct manager, ask another manager, or a human resources or health and safety representative.

Your employer should have processes for reporting bullying, harassment and other unreasonable behaviour. They should consider the information provided before deciding what to do — they may choose to carry out a formal investigation or take another approach.

If your employer does not have a report or complaint form, you can use the forms on the WorkSafe website.

Bullying: Reporting and assessment forms – WorkSafe (external link)

Sexual harassment - form – WorkSafe(external link)

The person who steps in to address your concerns will first need to gather details about what has happened and then try to resolve the matter informally. They may speak with the person accused of the behaviour to tell them it was inappropriate and ask them not to do it again.

Managers involved need to be clear on what has actually happened — otherwise, a formal investigation may need to be carried out to be fair to the person accused.

If the behaviour continues, you may wish to make a formal complaint.

Making a formal complaint

  • First find out if there are any relevant workplace policies or procedures for reporting and follow these. There may be designated and trained people in your workplace who know how to deal with these issues in a sensitive way.
  • A formal complaint should trigger a formal investigation.
  • If there are no relevant workplace policies or procedures, you should still let your employer know as soon as possible. If the person accused is your direct manager, you can raise the complaint with a human resources or health and safety representative, union or lawyer.
  • If you are not comfortable doing this by yourself, you can ask a colleague, friend or your union to support you.
  • It is good to put what happened in writing so that there are no misunderstandings. It is important to be as clear as you can about what happened, including dates and what was said, seen or done.
  • If anyone else was there, tell your manager so that they can ask the person whether they agree with your account of what happened.
  • You can use the ‘Bullying: Formal complaint form’ on the WorkSafe website.

Bullying: Reporting and assessment forms – WorkSafe(external link)

  • If you have a preference for what you would like to see happen, tell your manager. They will consider your views, but they may decide that a different course of action is more appropriate.
  • The person who has carried out the investigation should tell you:
    • whether the behaviour was found to be bullying or harassment
    • whether action will be taken and, if so, when.

If you are not happy with your employer’s response

If you are not happy with the outcome, there are options available to you. You can seek support from Employment Mediation Services to help resolve the issue.


You can also raise a personal grievance. There are time limits that apply for raising a personal grievance.

Personal grievances

You can bring an action with the Human Rights Commission Te Kāhui Tika Tangata if it is in relation to discrimination or racial or sexual harassment. 

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata Human Rights Commission(external link)

If you have a problem at work that you have not been able to resolve by talking to the other person or by using mediation, you can ask the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) to resolve the issue by making a binding decision.

Who can apply to the authority – Employment Relations Authority(external link)

Find out more about your other options when an issue has not been resolved.

Escalating unresolved issues 


Charlie works as a mechanic at an auto repair shop and has been mistreated by one of his colleagues since starting the job. The colleague excludes Charlie from social activities at work, calls him names and shuts down his opinions.

Charlie feels undervalued and disrespected. He talks to his friend, who suggests checking out employment.govt.nz.

Charlie calls 0800 20 90 20 to speak with someone from Employment NZ. He is given information on how to deal with bullying and harassment problems. He is also told where to find other helpful resources and given suggestions on how to raise the issue with his employer.

Charlie talks privately with his employer and they discuss ways to solve the issue. The employer talks with Charlie’s colleague about their behaviour and holds a team meeting to discuss expected behaviours in the workplace.

The employer puts a new policy in place that outlines workplace expectations and the steps to be followed for future issues.

Josie works at a large retail chain. Demand at the store has really picked up, and the store manager is forcing Josie and the team to work during lunch breaks to get more work done. Josie feels bullied because the of the way the store manager is linking lunchtime cover with job performance.

Josie talks with their teammates and decides to lodge a complaint with head office. Head office tells Josie they will investigate, but after a few weeks nothing has changed.

Josie looks on employment.govt.nz to see what options there are for resolving issues like this. They see that the Early Resolution Service can be used to resolve the issue with the store manager quickly, informally, confidentially and free of charge.

After filling out the online form, Josie is contacted by an early resolution facilitator. They ask Josie to tell them about the issue, and with Josie’s consent, they contact the head office to see how the matter can be resolved.

Head office agrees to confront the store manager and issue a company-wide directive that all staff must take their lunch breaks. Head office offers the team one day of special paid leave to compensate.

Early resolution

Alex works as a kitchen assistant in a busy restaurant. The head chef has been making unwanted sexual comments and inappropriate sexual gestures towards her.

Alex feels extremely uncomfortable and tells the head chef how their behaviour makes her feel and asks them to stop. After confronting the head chef, Alex is not called in to work for several days and when she asks why, she gets no response.

Alex decides to apply for mediation through Employment Mediation Services, saying she has been sexually harassed and now appears to have lost her job. The Mediation Service contacts Alex and her employer to set a date and time for mediation.

At mediation, the mediator ensures both parties are comfortable talking to each other. Alex is able to tell the employer what happened. The employer agrees that the behaviour was unacceptable and that something must be done.

The mediator works with both parties to resolve the complaint and make the workplace safe for Alex to return to work. The employer apologises and agrees to confront the head chef and put appropriate action in place, including rostering Alex on different shifts.

The employer agrees to pay compensation for the impact of the head chef’s actions and to have regular meetings to check in with Alex to make sure she feels safe. They also agree to update workplace policies on sexual harassment and remind all staff of expectations for workplace behaviour and the consequences of any breach.


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