Bullying and harassment

BULLYING AT WORK

Bullying is a health and safety issue!  If your workplace has become unsafe because of bullying you are not helpless.

If your workplace has become unsafe because of Bullying and harassment by your bosses or co-workers you can do something about it.

 

Bullying and harassment can take many forms including abuse, overload of work and unreasonable expectations in performance of duties. You should approach your immediate superior in the first instance to complain and see if the problem can be fixed. If after several such requests the problem is not fixed you can take a grievance.

You may raise a grievance under different statutes depending on the nature of the bullying or harassment. We can help you at the outset to try and resolve your problem and we can help you with your grievance and subsequent progress towards a solution.

Bullying is hard to prove. Just because you feel bullied it doesn’t mean you have a case, but just because it is hard to prove it doesn’t mean you don’t.

What Workplace bullying IS:

  • repeated and unreasonable behavior directed towards a worker that can lead to physical or psychological harm.
  • Repeated behavior occurs more than once and can involve a range of actions over time.
  • Unreasonable behavior means actions that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would see as unreasonable. It includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person.
  • Bullying may also include harassment, discrimination or violence

What is NOT Workplace bullying:

  • one-off or occasional instances of forgetfulness, rudeness or tactlessness
  • setting high performance standards
  • constructive feedback and legitimate advice or peer review
  • a manager requiring reasonable verbal or written work instructions to be carried out
  • warning or disciplining workers in line with the business or undertaking’s code of conduct
  • a single incident of unreasonable behaviour
  • reasonable management actions delivered in a reasonable way
  • differences in opinion or personality clashes that do not escalate into bullying, harassment or violence.

We must be able to prove that the bully caused harm and also intended to cause harm on more than one occasion.

You will be expected to have kept records of the incidents and to have told someone else, preferably management.

 

Bullying FAQ

Am I being bullied?

A lot of behaviour by our boss or colleagues may feel like bullying.  A lot of this “bullying” could also be described as unpleasant behaviour, this can cause a lot of stress and even anxiety but it might not be bullying.

Bullying is:

  • Repeated
  • Unreasonable, including: humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person
  • Harassment, discrimination or violence

Bullying is not:

  • Occasional rudeness or one off incidents of unreasonable behaviour
  • High performance standards
  • Constructive feedback or advice
  • Requests for extra work to be done\Warning or disciplining workers according to the code of conduct
  • An argument or difference of opinion (as long as it doesn’t become aggressive)

 

What do i do if i am being bullied at work?

You should find out if there are any workplace policies or processes for reporting bullying and follow these. There may be specific and trained people in your workplace who know how to deal with these issues in a sensitive way.

If there is no set process or procedure you should do the following:

Make a note every time something happens. Notes should record dates and times, and what was said or done, who was there, and how it made you feel.

You will then need to make your employer aware of the situation
Ideally you would raise the issue in writing.

Who do I raise it with?
It depends on who is bullying you. If it is another employee, you should first raise the matter with your manager or supervisor, or the next level of management if the offender is your manager.

If the person who is bullying you is the Owner of the company, or the manager and there is nobody else to tell you can call us on 0800NOWINNOFEE and we will advise you or assist you.

What should happen after I report that I am being bullied?

After receiving your complaint the business should:

  • Support you and the person you have complained about
  • Decide on a plan for investigation, including possibly suspending the person who is being investigated
  • Give guidance on how to continue to work with the person
  • Report back to you about the steps that have been taken
I reported it and now things are much worse! What do I do now?

Sadly this is what sometimes happens.  You have done the right thing by reporting the issues because that makes it easier for us to help you.  Give us a call as soon as possible and tell us what’s happening and we will try to help.

If you want to know what the risks of not dealing with bullying in the workplace quickly are you should listen to this podcast: 

Bullying Formal Complaint Form

If the bullying is not an immediate threat to your health and you know your Employer is not yet aware of the situation you can use is form to raise a formal complaint:

Print this form and complete it.  Give it to your Manager, or to your HR Department.  This is to make sure your employer is aware of the bullying situation, and gives them the opportunity to respond.

If you would like to talk to us about the situation, even if you haven’t yet raised the issue with your Employer, please feel free to call us, we can help you decide what to do next, or if we can already step in on your behalf.

Please contact us on 0800 669 446 or use the contact form:

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You’re fired! Sacked or dismissed

If you’re fired or unfairly dismissed

Find out what your rights are as an employee to fight unfair dismissal.

Have you been Fired, Sacked or Dismissed on the Spot?

This just shouldn’t happen under New Zealand Employment Law.

If your boss has fired or sacked you without warning you are likely to have a case and we can arrange to talk with your employer about a financial settlement or represent you at mediation or employment court.

The experience of losing your job is likely to be an unpleasant one and you will likely be very upset.   We are great listeners, and you will feel better for picking up the phone and getting some expert help.

Do you need an Employment Lawyer?  We do have an Employment Lawyer on our team who you can hire at an hourly rate.  However we have a mixture of Employment Lawyers and Advocates, our whole team are Employment Law Experts, so you will be in good hands.

One of the biggest differences between lawyers and advocates is the way they charge for their services.  Advocates can work on a contingency fee, which is commonly referred to as “no win – no fee”.  This means if we take on your case we will charge you a percentage of any payout you receive. If you lose the case, you pay nothing.

We are Employment Advocates.  We only get paid if we win your case.  This means we need to be selective about the cases we take on.  It’s absolutely free to call us and discuss your situation.

80% of cases are resolved prior to or during mediation.  

If you are unsure whether or not you have a case just give us a call to discuss your situation.

Note: If you were violent or very abusive in the workplace, an employer is very likely to be justified in firing you and asking you to leave immediately, and it is unlikely we will be unable to assist.

Phone us on 0800 NO WIN NO FEE (0800 669 466) or fill in our form.

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90 Day Trial Period

90 day period rules

Trial Periods are Complicated.  There are very strict rules about how they are used. You still have rights.

Calculate Your Trial Dates

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The 90 day trial period is a period when an employer can dismiss the employee without the employee being able to raise a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal.

If you have been dismissed during your 90 day trial and you want to know if it’s legal or fair give us a call. We will check it for you.

It’s complicated:

The Trial Period is not an automatic right of employers, it must be done correctly:

90 Day Trial Rules

  • New Law from 6 May 2019: Only an employer with 19 or fewer employees (at the beginning of the day on which the employment agreement is entered into) may employ a new employee on a trial period for the first 90 calendar days of their employment. 
  • The worker must be a new employee.
  • There must be a written employment agreement that contains a trial period clause. That clause must state the exact time period and that during the trial the employer can dismiss the employee and the employee can’t bring a personal grievance or other legal proceedings about their dismissal.  (Please note all your other rights as an employee remain and you may still raise a personal grievance on other grounds).
  • The agreement should state an official start date for a 90-day trial period. –
  • The employment agreement must be signed by the worker before they start work. (If the worker starts at 9am and their agreement is signed at 9.05am on the same day, the trial is invalid)
  • The worker must have had time to get independent legal advice on the employment agreement.
  • If required, notice under the trial period must be given within the 90 days.
  • When the trial period finishes, unless the employee has been dismissed they become a permanent member of staff.

Can my employer fire me within 90 days even if I haven’t done anything wrong?

As long as the employer gives you notice of dismissal within the trial period they can dismiss you without consulting with you beforehand and for any reason. You can not bring a personal grievance against the employer in relation to the dismissal.  But, you can bring a personal grievance claim based on other grounds such as discrimination, harassment, or to recover unpaid wages. Aside from the employer’s ability to dismiss you you should not be treated any differently from any other employee.

If the trial period isn’t going well and the employer decides to dismiss the employee, they must give notice to the employee that they will be dismissed.

The notice:

  • must be the amount of notice in the employment agreement. If the employer doesn’t give the employee the right amount of notice then the trial period is invalid and the employee will continue to be employed (or if they were dismissed, they could bring a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal). For example, the employer can’t tell the employee that they are dismissed effective immediately if there is a 1 week notice period in their employment agreement.
  • must be given within the trial period, even if the actual dismissal takes effect after the trial period ends. For example, if the trial period is 8 calendar weeks and the notice period is 1 week, the employer must give notice to the employee before the end of the eighth week, even though the employee won’t leave until the end of their notice period.
  • doesn’t have to have reasons for the employee’s dismissal.

As long as all the 90 day trial rules are followed the employer is not required to give reasons for the dismissal.

Check your employment agreement to confirm there is a trial period clause.

Unless it’s in writing and signed by both employer and employee before the employee starts, the trial period isn’t valid.

If you are an Employee and have been dismissed under the 90 day trial period and you are not sure it’s fair contact us and we will check your rights.

sources: Citizens Advice Bureau, stuff.co.nz, Employment New Zealand, The leading source of information on employment in New Zealand.

Call us on 0800 669 466 or email us using the form below so we can connect you with one of our team to help.

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I was having a terrible time at my workplace. Sandy was one of the angels that helped me survive the whole ordeal, she had all the knowledge and experience needed to help, got straight onto my employers and had things settled so quickly. I am very thankful.

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Our Advocates are either qualified legal professionals or human resources experts. We do the same job as employment lawyers, the difference is that we are able to provide our services on a No Win No Fee basis. We strive to be the best Employment Advocates in NZ by holding ourselves to the highest standards possible.

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EXIT PACKAGE

When an employment relationship has broken down, an exit package is often used to end the employment contract. They can be initiated by either the employer or the employee.

Exit packages are attractive to both employer and employee.

Exit packages allow the employer to bring the employment relationship to an end quickly, easily and without a lot of delay and expense.

There are many reasons for an employee to need to leave a job. Sometimes it’s the arrival of a new CEO who wants to place their ‘own people’ in pivotal roles. Suddenly responsibilities change, new middle managers appear and employees find themselves doing the same job but with less status. Alternatively, an employer may genuinely need to restructure a business, resulting in redundancies, or the business may be in trouble and the employee able to see the writing on the wall.

Sometimes you can tell you are no longer wanted or needed through no fault of your own. An Exit Package is a much more attractive option than simply resigning.

Whatever the reason it’s always best to make a dignified exit.

Many problematic employment relationships do not end by dismissal or resignation, but through the negotiation of an exit package.

The perception comes from dissatisfaction in the workplace for the employee, performance issues for the employer and most often when a disciplinary meeting takes place. An exit package is attractive to both parties when the employment relationship has no real future.  

Typically, such a package will contain some financial benefit for the employee and possibly a reference. The employer can have the assurance that any grievances or claims arising out of the employment relationship (existing or yet to be raised) are at an end.

Our advocates can recognise the opportunity for an exit package and negotiate the best possible package in the circumstances. It is always best to engage our advocates at an early stage so that this strategy can be considered and prepared together, making for the best outcome.

If you need help negotiating an exit package with your employer give us as much information as possible below or call us on 0800 669 466.

What our clients are saying

Appreciate what you do

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I’m so lucky your team picked up my case & helped me through. I really appreciate your service

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Sandy's an Angel

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September 9, 2019

I was having a terrible time at my workplace. Sandy was one of the angels that helped me survive the whole ordeal, she had all the knowledge and experience needed to help, got straight onto my employers and had things settled so quickly. I am very thankful.

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Helped with my son's unfair dismissal

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My son was unfairly dismissed from his workplace and reticent to take action against the company as he felt he had no power. Worklaw informed him of his rights and with their representation he successfully proceeded with an unfair dismissal case. Worklaw were extremely professional and got the job done. Well impressed.

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What to expect at mediation

An Employment Advocate can be very helpful at mediation as they can do the talking for you as your representative.

If you are wondering what a meditaion is like you can ask us for free and we’ll talk it through, there is no obligation to take us with you, we are happy to have a chat about what your individual situation is and see if we can help you.

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If you would like to talk to us about supporting you at mediation please complete our contact form.

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From Our Clients

Thousands of employees and employers have trusted us us to help with their employment issues, here are reviews from a handful of them.

Appreciate what you do

5.0 rating
September 23, 2019
Review of No Win No Fee

I’m so lucky your team picked up my case & helped me through. I really appreciate your service

Christian M

Sandy's an Angel

5.0 rating
September 9, 2019

I was having a terrible time at my workplace. Sandy was one of the angels that helped me survive the whole ordeal, she had all the knowledge and experience needed to help, got straight onto my employers and had things settled so quickly. I am very thankful.

Stephanie B

Helped with my son's unfair dismissal

5.0 rating
September 8, 2019

My son was unfairly dismissed from his workplace and reticent to take action against the company as he felt he had no power. Worklaw informed him of his rights and with their representation he successfully proceeded with an unfair dismissal case. Worklaw were extremely professional and got the job done. Well impressed.

Brenda Rae Kidd

 

Take an Advocate to your Mediation

If you have raised a Personal Grievance with your Employer or previous employer (within the 90 day deadline), and you have not received a satisfactory response you can take the grievance to mediation.

What is mediation?

Mediation services are available to Employees as a method of solving employment problems before they go to  the Employment Court (the ERA).  When needing to identify the issues, resolve disputes and reach an overall outcome a third party called a ‘Mediator’ is available to help.

A successful mediation aims to save time, energy and potential costs & losses. This is a semi-formal, confidential option which allows parties to negotiate and focus on interests, agendas and opportunities to move beyond the issue at hand. We wouldn’t take you to mediation without first assessing you have a good case and being confident that we can get you your desired outcome.

Why should you take an Employment Law Advocate to mediation?

We are experts in New Zealand Employment Law. We know your rights, we have a lot of experience with these matters, and we know what financial (and other) compensations are appropriate.

Most often the employer will bring an Employment Lawyer or Employment Advocate themselves and this can put you at a disadvantage both emotionally and intellectually.  You can represent yourself, but knowing your rights and being able to stay calm and open minded during the process is important. 

To ensure the best outcome we recommend you seek representation by someone who has legal experience such as an advocate, lawyer or even a community leader.  Lawyers usually charge by the hour.  Because the mediation process can be quite time consuming it can be very expensive to hire a Lawyer.  Our Advocates are legal experts, with specialised knowledge of employment law. We can represent you all the way to the Employment Court if necessary.   Our fees are much less than it would cost to use a lawyer.  We will take your case to mediation if we think we can get you a financial outcome. You don’t pay us unless we do.

Our Employment Advocates  will:

  • help you prepare for mediation,
  • gather facts,
  • set out the law
  • identify the most appropriate solution for the issue,

We attempt to obtain a fair compensation based on the facts presented and the ways in which your employer may have breeched your rights under NZ Employment Law.

Having an Advocate represent you does not mean that you will not be involved.  Keeping involved in the process will be beneficial to voice any concerns you may have, and give the other party a chance to consider what you are saying. This can be one of the most important parts of your mediation.

You are also able to bring along a support person to your mediation should you wish. The role of a support person is to provide you with emotional support throughout the process.

Unsuccessful Mediation;

Both sides get to agree on the outcome.
Most of the time mediation is successful.  But occasionally things take a little longer.  

If no agreement is reached the case may be escalated to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA). 
Sometimes the ERA Member will direct you back to mediation. 

At the ERA the final outcome is decided by the authority member (Judge) and neither party will have a say in the settlement. The danger in taking disputes to the ERA is the chance of loss and that you may be ruled against. In some cases costs may be awarded against you, if you are seen to be the person that is in the wrong. 

See our page on ERA to get further information on this option.

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