Call for inquiry into 'systemic' workplace bullying

Advocate calls on Government to launch inquiry into ‘systemic’ workplace bullying

14 May 2017

Workplace bullying in New Zealand is at an epidemic level and the Government is doing nothing about it, according to CultureSafe NZ director Allan Halse.
Halse, who has advocated for hundreds of victims of workplace bullying, is calling on the Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety Michael Woodhouse to launch an inquiry into “systemic” workplace bullying.
His call for an inquiry comes after Halse advocated for the woman at the centre of stories on Stuff.co.nz andNZHerald.co.nz today that outline allegations of bullying, racism and disrespect for bodies at Auckland City Hospital’s mortuary.
Halse wrote to Woodhouse in July 2015 outlining his concerns about serious deficiencies of the application and interpretation of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 and its relationship to workplace bullying.
“That Act was strengthened by the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 which took effect last year. The day it took effect top lawyer Mai Chen said in a NZ Herald article that there is now legal obligation on the employer to provide a safe working environment and that includes psychological and physiological harm as well as physical harm.”
But Halse says nothing came of his contact with Woodhouse or with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. And he says he sees employers continuing to provide unsafe working environments.
“I met with MBIE and WorkSafe about my concerns, but nothing has changed.
“Workplace bullying is a health and safety issue but the Employment Relations Authority, being a civil jurisdiction, can’t rule on the Health and Safety Act so there really is no authoritative body that can impart justice for the victims of workplace bullying.”
Halse said a 20091 study showed the almost one if five workers had experienced workplace bullying.
“Why aren’t our politicians and our unions interested in helping fix this culture of workplace bullying? It is systemic across all of New Zealand. It’s high time that our politicians started taking some action on this issue.”
Halse acted for mortuary worker Mandy Kelly who made a formal complaint about her treatment in the workplace. She has since quit her job and returned to her UK home.
NZME and Fairfax have today reported that a top-level inquiry by WorkSafe is now under way into allegations of bullying and concerns about work practices, including the treatment of bodies, at Auckland City Hospital’s mortuary.
“Every single day I see how workplace bullying impacts on people… on their physical and mental health. It destroys them. And it has to stop.
“Not only does workplace bullying impact hundreds of people and their families, it also has far-reaching implications on our economy. It impacts our health system, our productivity as a country.
“This should absolutely be an election issue and I’m calling on the Michael Woodhouse to get his head out of the sand and finally address workplace bullying in this country by launching an inquiry into how far-reaching it is, the impacts of it on our economy and to examine the failings of our justice system in addressing workplace bullying head on.”

1http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/fms//Massey%20News/2010/04/docs/Bentley-et-al-report.pdf

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