Government work plan to prevent workplace bullying and harrassment

Workplace bullying and harassment was the subject of a recent select committee hearing.  Following questioning from National MP Nikki Kaye, Phil Parkes, CEO of WorkSafe advised Parliament that it takes the issue of workplace bullying and harassment seriously and is “taking steps to improve our internal processes for doing investigations and our external programmes to improve all psycho-social harm”.

These steps include:

  • working on two research pieces to better understand what the causes for bullying and sexual harassment are, and what WorkSafe needs to do differently to make workplaces safer.
  • developing an issues paper for public consultation in the next few months to get feedback about how Worksafe could improve systems around bullying and sexual harassment.
  • piloting a new system whereby upon receipt of a serious complaint by an employee, an official inspector is dispatched to look at the company’s policies and processes in the workplace.
  • currently undertaking 11 criminal investigations into workplace bullying.

Mr Parkes also advised that MBIE is also looking into following Australia’s lead and reviewing New Zealand’s health and safety at work legislation. Australia’s 2018 review found that its work health and safety laws are operating as intended, but politicians were urged to develop better regulations around psychological health of employees and strengthening compliance.

It will be very interesting to see what develops in this area, if anything.  Worksafe have been criticised in the past for its lack of investigations into workplace incidents. However, with limited resources it has to focus on the most important safety problems which generally include death and serious injury in high risk industries such as the agriculture and construction sectors.

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