Health and safety at work

A brief introduction to health and safety in the workplace. For more detailed information visit WorkSafe New Zealand’s website.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and related regulations apply to employees and contractors.

The Act and related regulations require that workers and others are given the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes risks to both physical and mental health.

The Act introduces a new term, “Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking” (PCBU), which captures employers, self-employed, principals to contracts, manufacturers, designers, etc. who have the primary health and safety duties. Workers also have duties under the Act. Workers include employees and contractors.

Health and safety duties

Workplace health and safety programmes

Organisations must provide appropriate training and information for workers so that they can work safely. Many organisations provide additional training and benefits as part of a health and safety or wellness programme. One example of this is an employee assistance programme.

Employee Assistance Programmes

Many employers have employee assistance programmes (also known as EAP) to provide free and confidential counselling and support to employees. The counselling may be general or may be specific, for example, budgeting advice or CV writing skills. Organisations often offer EAP to their employees as part of their wider health and safety programme or as part of a managing diversity initiative.

EAP is not usually restricted to work issues, because issues in a person’s home life can have an impact on their relationships, health and productivity at work. Being able to refer staff to EAP (if it is needed by an employee) is useful for managers as part of managing an employee’s performance or misconduct, as other problems in their life can be a contributing factor to issues arising in the workplace. Many organisations offer EAP during workplace change, even if they do not have a continuing EAP programme, as this can be a particularly stressful time for employees. Sometimes employees can refer themselves directly, sometimes they need to go through a contact person in their organisation. Some organisations limit the number of sessions per issue, or sessions per person.

There are different options for organisations to provide EAP to staff including:

  • contracting a single EAP provider and paying a set fee based on the number of employees in the organisation. The advantage of this is that the employer doesn’t know who is using the service so employees can feel that their use of the service is completely confidential.
  • contracting a single EAP provider and paying per session. This can be done more confidentially if the employee can go through a designated contact person in the organisation, so the person’s name can be protected.
  • contracting with specific providers as and when needed. The advantage of this is that specialist providers can be used, targeting the person and their specific situation. If a designated contact person is used within the organisation, this will assist with the protection of the person’s name. If they prefer not to disclose their issue, they can still be referred to a general provider.

Further resources

WorkSafe New Zealand (external link) provides a range of useful resources on health and safety in the workplace, including:

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