Further steps in dealing with bullying complaints

What to do if bullying complaints are not resolved within an organisation.

Personal grievance and mediation

If the complainant is not happy with the employer's response, they may raise a personal grievance through Employment New Zealand’s free mediation services to try and resolve the issue.

Workers have 90 days from when they identified bullying to raise a personal grievance claim under the Employment the Relations Act.

Personal grievances

How to request mediation

As an alternative to taking a personal grievance, a worker may be able to take their issue to:

  • WorkSafe New Zealand
  • the New Zealand Human Rights Commission
  • the New Zealand Police
  • the Ombudsman
  • Netsafe
  • the union, if they have one. 

Employment Relations Authority (ERA)

If the employer or the employee is unhappy with the outcomes of the mediation, either party can go to the ERA.

ERA can deal with health and safety issues if they are a part of a personal grievance under the Employment Relations Act as implied terms of an employment contract.

Employment Relations Authority (external link)  

Employment Court

If the employer or the employee is unhappy with the ERA decision, either party can challenge it in the Employment Court.

Employment Court of New Zealand (external link)  

Case studies

Barnes v Canterbury Westland Kindergarten Association Inc 02 September NZERA 509 (external link)
A teacher was awarded $30k for hurt and humiliation in a workplace bullying case.

Kneebone v Schizophrenia Fellowship Waikato Incorporated 13 February 2007 AA31/07 (external link)
The Employment Relations Authority listed a number of factors for employers to consider when determining whether or not a person had been bullied.

Mitchell v Eastland Group Ltd 23 May 2012 NZERA Auckland 175 (external link)
The Employment Relations Authority stated the definition of workplace bullying.

Relevant legislation

Bullying can be a crime in some circumstances. The relevant legislation depends on the type and severity of bullying.

Crimes Act

If physical or sexual harm is caused through bullying, this may be criminal offence and covered under the Crimes Act.

Crimes Act 1961 – New Zealand Legislation (external link)

Harmful Digital Communications Act (HDCA)

The HDCA may apply if bullying is occurring through digital channels. Digital communication is defined widely in the Act to include any form of electronic message such as texts, photos, pictures, and recordings.

Harmful Digital Communications Act – New Zealand Legislation (external link)

Harassment Act 1997

If the bullying leads someone to fear for their safety, then it may be covered under the Harassment Act 1997.

Harassment Act 1997 – New Zealand Legislation (external link)

Employment Relations Act

The Employment Relations Act requires employees and employers to actively maintain their relationship. Repeated verbal or emotional attacks on an employee may breach the duty of good faith.

Providing a safe workplace for employees is an implied obligation in all employment agreements. Employees may raise a personal grievance if an employer fails to manage bullying, and creates an unsafe workplace.

Employment Relations Act – New Zealand Legislation (external link)

Health and Safety at Work Act

Businesses must remove or minimise risks to workers health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable, including the risk of harm from bullying at work. This Act applies to both employees and contractors.

Health and Safety at Work Act – New Zealand Legislation (external link)

Human Rights Act

The Human Rights Act may apply if the bullying includes discrimination on the grounds of:

  • race
  • disability
  • sexual orientation, or

Human Rights Act – New Zealand Legislation (external link)

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Page last revised: 07 October 2020

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