Calls for stringent measures as workplace bullying increases

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Venkat Raman
Auckland, July 31, 2022

Workplace bullying has become endemic in New Zealand and the absence of adequate laws and regulatory framework, workers continue to suffer humiliation and harassment, many experts have said.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is due to release its report on Workplace Bullying and Harassment following the end of public consultation in March this year, but legal and other experts say that government action should go beyond just reports.

In its report dated June 21, 2019, Statistics New Zealand said that about 300,000 people, accounting for 11% of the workforce had said that they had experienced discrimination, harassment or bullying in the previous 12 months.

The affected groups

Labour Market Statistics Manager Scott Ussher said that discrimination, harassment, or bullying at work could be by anyone, from co-workers to managers to the general public.

“Women are more likely to have experienced discrimination, harassment or bullying at work. Workers in the 45-54 age group reported the highest rate of harassment or bullying at 14%. Asian and Maori ethnic groups accounted for 13% while the rate for Pacifica and European ethnic groups was about 11%,” he said.

Indian Newslink regularly receives complaints from members of the South Asian communities of discrimination and harassment not only in the government and public sector but also in private organisations.

These include, not surprisingly, small and medium companies, and public-listed large undertakings where the bullying occurs routinely, with employees leaving their services in disgust or forced to resign.

There are calls to name and shame them but this would require a change in the existing laws.

Last year, the Ministry of Workplace Relations and Safety commissioned FrankAdvice, a consultant firm to analyse bullying and harassment at workplaces.

Survey responses

The firm submitted its report in November 2021 in which it included suggestions made by about 1000 respondents to its online survey. These included (a) Restorative just approaches and responses instead of adversarial approaches (b) more accessible support to victims (c) extension of the 90-day limit for raising a personal grievance with an employer (d) overhaul of the Employment Relations Authority and (e ) full review of the current legislative framework.

Bullying and harassment at work is a complex, widespread and serious problem in New Zealand and internationally. It reflects broader relationship issues between people in and outside of work, and no country is immune to them.

Several reports and advocates have raised concerns over bullying and harassment at work in New Zealand. In 2018, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported on mental health and work in New Zealand and observed that there is a high prevalence of bullying at work. The last few years have seen a number of reviews of public sector entities (including the New Zealand Defence Force, New Zealand Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand and Parliament) reporting bullying and harassment in the private sector.

In its Issue Paper, the MBIE said, “Bullying and harassment at work can harm those affected, and this Issues Paper notes how the consequences extend beyond the individuals involved. The severity of harm caused by bullying and harassment to affected individuals should not be underestimated.”

Indian Newslink will carry more reports and Open-Eds on this subject.
Coming up: “The nasty business of workplace bullying should end”

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