Workplace Bullying - Guidelines

Workplace Bullying

In the absence of specially defined legislation for New Zealand workplace bullying, WorkSafe NZ has released a set of best practice Guidelines to provide clarity – particularly for employers around preventing and responding to workplace bullying.

What is bullying?  (as defined in the guidelines)
Bullying is a workplace hazard
Bullying affects personal health
Bullying affects business productivity
Bullying behaviours are specific and have a range of solutions
Bullying is prevalent in New Zealand’s workplaces and needs to be addressed

A first for New Zealand, the Guidelines have a focus on both employers and employees responding early before a situation gets out of hand, providing a clear definitions and how to respond.

Developed by the MBIE, the Guidelines state that bullying must be repeated, unreasonable, targeted and creating risk to health and safety. A single instance can’t be deemed as bullying. Repeated behaviour means there is plenty of time for prevention with well-documented and correct intervention, which is why the ministry included templates for businesses to use. 

Bullying in the workplace has a detrimental effect on businesses contributing to increased job dissatisfaction, low morale, staff turnover, increased absenteeism, harm to the business reputation etc, as well as the physical and mental wellbeing of the employee.
It was interesting to me to read that bullying can be by colleagues and by managers, and the guidelines also cover institutional bullying – relating to workload and a company’s policies and practices, and task related.

It is no secret that happy and healthy employees perform better, and are more productive. Furthermore, employers who fail to appropriately deal with bullying run the risk of breaching their obligations under the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, the Human Rights Act 1993 and the Harassment Act 1997.

The Guidelines also contain useful information for employers, including sample policies and templates for preventing workplace bullying including: good management practices, setting out clear standards of expected behaviour, bullying prevention policies, education and responding to complaints of bullying. And for employees, Flow charts to follow should they believe they are being bullied at work.

While the Guidelines are not statutory requirements, it is likely that the Employment Court and Employment Relations Authority will refer to the Guidelines to assess if employers have attempted to follow the procedures in the Guidelines when they are asked to consider cases of bullying brought before them.

The Guidelines are supported by a set of online tools, which can be used by both employers and employees to help deal with workplace bullying and respond to situations before they get out of hand. These include a calculator tool for employers to assess the cost of bullying and a workplace assessment tool that measures organisational culture with a view to preventing bullying.

It is clearly emphasised in the Guidelines that Employers should have a policy in place that takes steps to identify and prevent bullying in the workplace, including investigation and resolution procedures.  It is not enough to have a piece of paper on the wall or in a manual, but must be covered in induction and training processes.

To view the Workplace Bullying Guidelines -

For HR guidance on policies and procedures – Paddy, Battersby HR Consulting, tel: 09 838 1455;

15 August 2014
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