Harassment and bullying

Policy, New Zealand, Law, Employment,

"I am safe at work and know how to respond if harassment or bullying occurs"

Whakapūpūtia mai ō mānuka, kia kore ai e whati.

 Whakatauki used by Bullying-free NZ to convey that together, with a shared vision, we know which way to go.





  • Prevention

  • Informal options

  • Formal complaint

  • External options


Helpful links

Our intent

Sexual and racial harassment is a breach of human rights to safety, equality and dignity. It often reflects intolerance for difference and links to prejudice based for example on gender, gender identity, age, cultural identity and sexual orientation. The effects of harassment, including bullying, can be significant and include loss of self-esteem and confidence, fear through to injury. 

We do not tolerate harassment and bullying in the workplace and if it occurs respond to it promptly and appropriately. We encourage any staff member or volunteer who experiences or becomes aware of harassment to speak up early.

Complaints are followed up quickly and fairly. The safety of complainants is prioritised and the rights of all involved respected.



Harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical behaviour or conduct (including displaying visual material) which causes offence, humiliation or intimidation of another person in the workplace.

It may or may not be intentional. It may involve behaviour through emails, social media, phone calls and texts. It includes sexual harassment, racial harassment and bullying.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment involves inappropriate sexual behaviour or displays in the workplace that cause fear, intimidation and detriment. It includes:

  • a direct or indirect request to a staff member for sexual contact or activity that contains:
    • an implied or overt threat of detrimental treatment,
    • or threat to current or future employment status, or
    • a promise of preferential treatment
  • behaviour that is unwelcome or offensive to a staff member and is repeated or significant enough to have a detrimental effect on their employment, job performance or job satisfaction.

Racial harassment

Racial harassment involves behaviour or use of language and visual displays that directly or indirectly

  • expresses hostility against, or brings a staff member into contempt or ridicule because of their race, colour, ethnic or national origins, and
  • it offends the staff member, and
  • it is so significant or repeated that it has a detrimental effect on their employment and job satisfaction.

Workplace bullying

Bullying is behaviour directed at a person or group in the workplace that can cause physical and psychological harm. It is unreasonable and usually repeated behaviour and includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person.


The board must support leadership of a culture of respect and tolerance in the workplace. It must respond promptly, fairly and in accord with our policies to complaints about bullying and harassment.

Management must:

  • lead a culture of respect and tolerance in the workplace that encourages early reporting
  • respond promptly, fairly and in accord with our policies to complaints about bullying and harassment
  • ensure records are kept of interactions and outcomes with staff in relation to bullying and harassment.

Staff and volunteers must not engage in bullying and harassment in the workplace. They must contribute to a culture of respect and tolerance in the workplace and report signs of bullying and harassment.



All staff and volunteers must agree to adhere to the Code of Conduct as part of their conditions of employment.

Strategies to promote this policy, respectful conduct, tolerance for difference and diversity, and awareness about bullying and harassment must be used in the workplace (eg visual materials, induction and training).

Bullying and harassment must be addressed at health and safety hui with staff.

Informal options

Bullying and harassment may be dealt with informally. The staff member or volunteer:

  • may deal with the issue directly with the person whose behaviour they are concerned about
  • might ask a senior person to informally talk to the other person about their behaviour
  • ask the person to participate in mediation.

A record should be kept of informal discussions and the outcome.

Formal complaint

The staff member or volunteer (the complainant) can choose to make a formal complaint in writing in their own capacity or through their representative. The complaint should be directed to management.

A complaint about management must be progressed to the chair of the board.

On receipt of the complaint, management or where applicable, the chair of the board, must take all reasonable steps to protect the complainant from any bullying or harassment.

The complaint must be treated as an allegation of misconduct and the requirements of the Misconduct policy applied with:

  • the complainant’s views considered
  • the complainant kept informed of the process (e.g the outcome and process of investigation)

External options

Complaints about sexual and racial harassment may be progressed externally if the staff member or volunteer prefers to not rely on our internal system for dealing with complaints. Options are below.

Human rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission provides a free and confidential mediation service. If mediation doesn’t resolve the dispute, the employee can take the dispute to the Director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings, Human Rights Review Tribunal.

For more information contact the Human Rights Commission:

Personal grievance

Sexual and racial harassment may also be pursued as a personal grievance under the Employment Relations Act 2000 if a complaint is made to management or the board and it has not been reasonably followed up.

New Zealand Police

Police should be contacted if behaviour involves criminal activity (eg violence, threats). See here for how to report a crime.

Bullying through cyber and digital technology

If bullying occurs through digital channels in, or out, of the workplace, then the Harmful Digital Communications Act might apply.

Harmful digital communication and cyberbullying includes:

  • sending or publishing threatening or offensive material
  • spreading damaging rumours
  • sending or publishing sensitive personal information such as embarrassing photos and videos.
  • Digital communication is defined widely in the Act to include any form of electronic message such as texts, photos, pictures, recordings etc.

Cyberbullying complaints can be made to Netsafe.


Social Sector Accreditation Standards - Level 2, Health and safety 1.0-2.0

Helpful links


Grievance and dispute resolution

Bullying, harassment and discrimination

Human Rights Commission

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