Bullying is a serious and common work risk. Bullying is insidious behaviour that needs to be identified and managed quickly. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) businesses are expected to manage health and safety risks as far as is reasonably practicable.

We respond to the most urgent or serious concerns to determine whether business systems and processes sufficiently protect workers from work risks. We have to make choices about whether or not to intervene and consider whether:

  • intervening helps us to deliver on our purpose and functions
  • the matter falls within our jurisdiction
  • we are the best-placed agency to intervene.

Examples of ways we may intervene include:

  • informing the business about the concern raised with us and recommending they review their processes to manage bullying
  • working with the business to improve its processes and systems
  • carrying out a formal workplace assessment
  • initiating an investigation
  • working with industry groups to highlight and address issues specific to their work.

What is involved when we investigate serious health and safety concerns?

An investigation is a formal, structured process of inquiry conducted to establish the facts, identify any breaches of the law, prevent recurrence, recommend an appropriate response to any serious breaches identified and understand the causes and lessons learned where possible. We’re unlikely to intervene in one-off cases. However, WorkSafe may consider intervening where a PCBU has failed to manage significant work-related mental health risks.

Situations that might prompt us to consider intervening include:

  • multiple incidents arising at one PCBU,
  • if a high level of harm resulted from the failure to manage risks, or
  • industry-wide or organisation-wide failings.

We’ll make intervention choices based on our strategic priorities and on whether we are the best placed agency to intervene.

In many cases, people suffering harm should speak to their employer first, using existing employment relations approaches, or should access support such as Employee Assistance Programmes.

An investigation into a bullying concern will not:

  • require a person to be disciplined or sacked
  • prove whether or not a person is a bully
  • mediate between parties
  • restore working relationships to a friendly/positive state
  • provide legal advice or counselling
  • award compensation
  • deal with employment-related matters or discrimination.

Who can help?

As bullying concerns often involve employment relations issues, the Employment Relations Authority may be best-placed for bullying concerns to be raised and remedied through its employment dispute process(external link).

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has a free mediation service(external link) which is available to any employee or employer with an employment relationship problem.

If you are in distress and need urgent emotional support, please seek help from a mental health helpline.(external link)

The Police should be contacted if somebody is being violent towards another person. Acts of violence can be verbal (verbal abuse, threats, shouting, swearing) or physical (stalking, throwing objects, hitting, damage to property).