Bullying is a criminal issue, not an employment matter
8 November 2017
Bullying is a criminal issue, not an employment matter: advocate
The Employment Relations Authority is not the place where workplace bullying should be ruled on according to an employee advocate.
CultureSafe NZ director Allan Halse, who advocates for workers in hundreds of Kiwi workplace bullying cases, said the Employment Relations Authority is failing those at risk because the issue of bullying is not an employment matter, it’s a health and safety matter.
Halse said this new government has the opportunity to change the legislation to protect those most at risk. And that the time to do it is now.
“Bullying is much more insidious than many New Zealanders realise,” Halse said.
He said there is a lack of justice and access to justice for those who are bullied in the workplace.
“There is no opportunity for an employee to take a personal grievance under the current Health and Safety Act of New Zealand.
“Basically, the issue is swept under the carpet of the Employment Relations Authority that treats it like a civil matter,” Halse said.
“Whereas if you are physically harmed at work, Worksafe NZ is all over the employer and has the ability to press criminal charges when an injury or death happens. Yet those who are systematically bullied have to take a personal grievance to the Employment Relations Authority, where many, many people are falling through the cracks due to human resources practices employed by the victim’s employer.”
CultureSafe NZ believes that this government has to recognise that bullying is more than a civil manner and, just like those who are abused by online cyber-bullying, it should be viewed as a criminal act which can be investigated by the police.
“Why can cyber-bullies be punished through a criminal process, yet those in the workplace get off scot-free?” Halse said.
“The cost of bullying to the economy is unquantified in New Zealand, because we don’t take it seriously enough. Yet in Australia they do – figures for bullying equate to $36 billion a year,” said Halse.
He said that a study had shown that throughout New Zealand 1 in 5 people are bullied in the workplace.
“That equates to 400,000 New Zealanders who are being bullied right now.”
In Victoria Australia, there is a special law against the workplace bullies.