Bullying & Harassment

In NZ bullying and harassment in the workplace is considered misconduct and poses a real risk to employee health and safety.

What is considered bullying and harassment?


Workplace bullying is behaviour that could reasonably be considered humiliating, intimidating, threatening or demeaning to an individual or group of employees. It can be overt (done openly) or covert (done stealthily), inflicted by one person or by a group.  Overt bullying includes, physical behaviours, verbal behaviours, and unjustified or unfair application of rules and policies including nit-picking and fault-finding in someone’s work.  Covert bullying includes behaviours that are harder to identify and are more subtle such as ostracism (exclusion from a group), undermining and sabotage.  Harassment can be a form of bullying.


General Harassment

The Harassment Act 1997 outlines harassment as:

  • watching, loitering near or preventing or hindering access to or from a person’s place of residence, business, employment or any other place that the person frequents for any purpose

  • following, stopping or accosting that person

  • entering or interfering with property in that person’s possession

  • making contact with that person (whether by telephone, correspondence or in any other way)

  • giving offensive material to that person or leaving it where it will be found by, given to or brought to the attention of that person

  • acting in any other way that causes a person to fear for his or her safety and that would cause a reasonable person in those particular circumstances to fear for his or her safety


Sexual Harassment

According to the Human Rights Act 1993, sexual harassment includes:

  • the making of a request of any other person for sexual intercourse, sexual contact or other form of sexual activity that contains an implied or overt promise of preferential treatment or an implied or overt threat of detrimental treatment

  • the use of language (whether written or spoken) of a sexual nature or of visual material of a sexual nature, for example, unwelcome behaviour such as telling sexual jokes or stories; suggestive remarks, teasing, gestures or noises; displaying sexual material, for example, on posters, computer screens etc

  • physical behaviour of a sexual nature, to subject any other person to behaviour that is unwelcome or offensive to that person and is either repeated or of such a significant nature that it has a detrimental effect on that person


Note: Where a person complains of sexual harassment, no account shall be taken of any evidence of the person’s sexual experience or reputation.​

Racial Harassment

As per the Human Rights Act 1993, racial harassment involves the use of language (whether written or spoken), visual material or physical behaviour that:

  • expresses hostility against or brings into contempt or ridicule any other person on the grounds of the colour, race or ethnic or national origins of that person; and

  • is hurtful or offensive to that person (whether or not that is conveyed to the first-mentioned person); and

  • is either repeated or of such a significant nature that it has a detrimental effect on that other person

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What is not considered bullying and harassment?

Sometimes employees can feel ‘bullied’ or stressed by the behaviour of a manager or colleague, but it isn’t actually considered bullying or harassment.  This may include but is not limited to:

  • friendly banter, light-hearted exchanges, mutually acceptable jokes and compliments

  • assertively expressing opinions that are different from others

  • open and frank discussion about issues or concerns that takes place without personal insults

  • providing constructive and courteous feedback, counselling or advice about work-related behaviour and performance

  • warning or disciplining someone in line with organisational policy

  • giving negative feedback, including in a performance appraisal and requiring justified performance improvement

  • carrying out legitimate or reasonable management decisions or actions, undertaken in a reasonable way and with respect and courtesy

  • making a complaint about a manager’s or other person’s conduct, if the complaint is made in a proper and reasonable way

  • insisting on high standards of performance in terms of quality, safety and team cooperation

What will it cost me?

In most cases, our help won’t cost employees/individuals anything.  When you first make contact, we will provide a free  15 minute consultation and confidential advice about your situation.  If your problem requires dedicated support from our team and/or formal representation we will aim to ensure any fees are covered by your employer. Have more questions? Click below to read more about the difference between bossed and 'no win no fee' organisations:

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