Workplace Bullying – what is it and how do you deal with it?

March 18, 2014

in Employment

iStock_000016394154SmallThe Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has recently released the first set of comprehensive guidelines for employers and employees aimed at preventing, as well as responding to, workplace bullying.  Employers in particular need to ensure that they adequately address workplace bullying or they face possible breaches of legislation such as Human Rights Act 1993, Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

Workplace bullying is defined in the guidelines as “…repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety. Repeated behaviour is persistent and includes a range of actions. Unreasonable behaviour covers actions which a reasonable person would not do in similar circumstances. It includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person.”  The guidelines note that a single incident is not considered bullying but it can escalate and should not be ignored.

The Guidelines also address the issue of “institutional bullying“, which is where an organisation’s norms, culture or practices allow behaviour which causes offence or undue stress, or where workplace structures, practices, policies or requirements place unreasonable burdens on employees without concern for their well-being.  Work structures may also lack a “reasoned, justifiable or evidence-based rationale”.

There is advice for both employees and employers involved in bullying behaviour and how to address the issues in a proper and adequate manner.  As an employer it is also important to ensure that your workplace anti-bullying policies are up to date and address the new definition of bullying as set out in the guidelines as well as the procedure for dealing with bullying.  For employers the emphasis is not only on preventing workplace bullying with good management practices, policies and clear expectations of behaviour but on ensuring that you respond appropriately to all complaints of bullying.

We are specialists in the area of employment law and can assist not only with drafting anti-bullying policies but can guide you through the process when allegations have been made, or you wish to make such an allegation.

If you require any advice or further information on the matters dealt with in this publication please contact the lawyer at Farry and Co who normally advises you, or alternatively contact:

Kirsten Maclean

(03) 477 8870 or (09) 379 0055


The information contained in this publication is intended as a guide only.  It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.  Professional advice should be sought before applying any of the information to particular circumstances.  While every reasonable care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, Farry and Co. does not accept liability for any errors it may contain. 

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