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Bullying and harassment raised as a H&S issue – by Dr Jason Price

Updated: Jun 16

Can Health and Safety legislation provide protection against the physical and psychological harm experienced by targets of workplace incivility, bullying and harassment?  The opportunity to influence New Zealand's legislation has just been opened by Workplace Relations Minister.  It closes on October 31, 2024.

This is a really important consultation opportunity. One of the glaring problems with current Health and Safety legislation is the lack of effective support for people who have experienced workplace incivility, bullying and harassment.

A myriad of academic research studies show that workplace bullying is directly linked to physical and psychological harm.  WorkSafe New Zealand's own report dated April 2024 directly links workplace bullying to 18 deaths by suicide.

New Zealand is out of step and behind Australia in the extent to which psychological harm (under which workplace incivility, bullying and harassment falls) is covered as an actionable health and safety matter.

This consultation is an ideal opportunity for the New Zealand Government to hear evidence and consider strengthening the protections and prevent people being harmed by workplace incivility, bullying and harassment.

There is also the additional matter of the suppression of evidence on workplace bullying, through the use of non-disclosure agreements (Section 149) that prevent people affected from both seeking adequate support, or discussing their experiences.

This hides and obfuscates the evidence of workplace bullying, and directly contradicts organisations’ policy statements about wanting to "learn lessons" and "continuously improve."

Organisations cannot learn and improve if the evidence of harm caused cannot be heard.

I would strongly encourage anyone who's been affected by workplace incivility, bullying and harassment to respond to this consultation exercise.

This consultation provides an opportunity to highlight people's real experiences of the harms caused by workplace incivility, bullying and harassment, and the flaws and ineffectiveness of the current approaches that themselves cause further, compounding harm.

You never know, we might even be able to reduce the numbers of people who feel workplace bullying has left them with no option but to end their lives.

Thanks to Joanne Crawford for bringing this consultation to my attention.

If you found this post interesting, follow me on LinkedIn to see more content in your LinkedIn feed. Please reshare this post to your New Zealand colleagues who may wish to contribute to the consultation exercise.

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