Human Rights Commission Report on Workplace Bullying and Harassment

2 Sep 2022
Author: Andrea Twaddle

Employment law continues to be a dynamic area for businesses and employees to navigate, with the Government’s labour market reform agenda progressing at pace, Commissioners taking a proactive role and numerous decisions of interest being released by the courts. 

The Report Experiences of Workplace Bullying and Harassment in Aotearoa, released by the Human Rights Commission this week, found that sexual harassment, racial abuse and bullying are widespread in New Zealand workplaces. Findings in the Report included that: 

  • In the past five years, 30% of workers experienced sexual harassment and 39% experienced racial harassment; 
  • In the past 12 months, 20% experienced bullying behaviour frequently;  
  • Maori, Pacific, Asian, as well as disabled and bisexual workers, are disproportionately affected by bullying and harassment.  

Alongside employment obligations of good faith, and human rights, employers have obligations to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that employees have a safe and healthy work environment. Workers should not be exposed to risks to their health and safety at work. This duty includes eliminating or minimising risks of mental, physical and emotional harm, such as those caused by bullying and harassment.  

Workplace policies should set the tone of expectations in the workplace. However, workplace culture will be influenced by the conduct and behaviours that managers, workers and clients bring to the environment. This should be proactively managed and reviewed by employers. 

The Report found that formal pathways for addressing harassment and bullying were uncommon and when accessed, often ineffective. Less than a quarter of workers raised a formal complaint, and almost a third of workers chose not to tell anyone about it. This may reflect the power imbalance common in workplace harassment and bullying, a fear of reputational harm, a fear of concerns not being investigated fairly, or that there will not be a change in institutional culture or real consequences for the perpetrator. 

The Report highlighted that many workers sought independence when workplace culture and policies were being investigated. 

There can be no hiding from these statistics, which provide evidential support for what has been anecdotally observed in New Zealand workplaces over many years. This is an area where New Zealand employers can and must do better.  

Our team of specialist employment lawyers can assist. We recommend employers consider a review of workplace policies, complaints and investigation processes for harassment, bullying, and stress in the workplace.  

We are also regularly engaged to undertake independent investigations into workplace culture, and allegations of misconduct including sensitive matters such as bullying and harassment. 

Please don’t hesitate to contact us on 07 282 0174, or

Human Rights Commission Report on Workplace Bullying and Harassment
About the Author
Andrea Twaddle
Andrea is an experienced specialist employment lawyer and Director at DTI Lawyers. She advises on contentious and non-contentious employment law issues, including privacy, and health and safety matters. Andrea is AWI-CH qualified, and undertakes complex workplace investigations. She is a member of the national Law Society Employment Law Reform Committee, a former Council Member at the WBOP District Branch of the Law Society, and Coordinator of the WBOP Employment Law Committee. Andrea is a sought-after commentator and speaker on employment law issues at client and industry seminars. She provides specialist, strategic advice to other lawyers, professional advisors and leadership teams. You can contact Andrea at