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Human Rights Commission risks ‘no confidence vote’

12 February 2018

Human Rights Commission risks ‘no confidence vote’

Businesses and the public will lack confidence in the Human Rights Commission unless it demonstrates it has policies and procedures in place to adequately deal with harassment within its own organisation, says Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie.

Media reports at the weekend revealed a young woman cut short her internship at the commission, the Government-appointed watchdog for unlawful discrimination and racial or sexual harassment, after she was groped by a senior staff member at a work party.

“The most disappointing aspect of the incident is that the young woman involved felt unsupported by her workplace when she reported the incident, and that there was no specific policy in place to deal with the matter,” says Cassidy-Mackenzie.

“All organisations, big and small, have a responsibility to put procedures in place to look after their staff. And this organisation’s core role is to protect the human rights of all people in Aotearoa.”

Cassidy-Mackenzie says there are plenty of resources available to help organisations ensure they have good practices to prevent and deal with harassment in the workplace. Diversity Works New Zealand offers workshops on this issue and has a bullying and harassment policy template that’s free for members to access.

The most recent New Zealand Diversity Survey, carried out in October last year, revealed that a little more than a quarter of organisations had recorded incidents of bullying or harassment during the prior 12 months.

Bullying and harassment continue to occur more frequently in public-sector organisations (35%) than in private-sector organisations (22%).

The survey revealed that 69 percent of all organisations have implemented either formal policies or programmes and initiatives to deal with this issue.

“Most employers are aware this is a serious issue that affects not only the welfare of their staff, but also productivity, which ultimately impacts the bottom line,” says Cassidy-Mackenzie.

Having a respectful inclusive culture where people feel safe at work creates an environment where staff are more engaged and make a higher discretionary effort, she says.

“It’s not just that employers have a legal requirement to create a safe working environment for their staff; it makes good business sense to do so.”


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