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Department of Labour comments on bullying research

Media Release

15 April 2010

Research on workplace bullying released today by Massey University sounds a warning to employers that they need robust practices and procedures to deal with workplace bullying issues, says Department of Labour Head of Employment Relations, Lesley Haines.

The research, Understanding Stress and Bullying in New Zealand Workplaceswas two-thirds funded by the Department and was carried out by a research team led by Professor Tim Bentley.

The researchers looked at the incidence of workplace bullying in four sectors – health, education, travel and hospitality. They surveyed employers and employees and found that workplace bullying in these sectors is high by international standards.

However, they have warned against extrapolating the results to say that bullying is widespread across all New Zealand workplaces.

“Despite this, employers should not be complacent,” says Ms Haines. “They have a duty under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to provide a healthy and safe workplace. This includes having a workplace in which bullying is not tolerated.

“Most importantly, employers should have clear and well understood systems to deal with bullying complaints, and which includes the provision of an impartial investigation of any complaints.”

Ms Haines says the Department has resources available to help employers and others deal with bullying. “We are developing a fact sheet that provides guidance in dealing with bullying issues. The Department also provides assistance with individual cases through its Health and Safety Inspectors and Mediation Services.

“If an employee feels they are unable to make a complaint to their employer, they may want to get support from family or friends, discuss the matter with their union, or seek assistance from the Department.”

Ms Haines says the Department will work with each of the four sectors covered by the report to raise awareness of the issues raised by the research findings. The fact sheet and other guidance material will be provided to employers and their staff to help address bullying themselves.