Bullying – a health and safety issue you are oblivious to!

Humans, we are a complex bunch aren’t we? We come in all shapes, sizes and of course personalities! Most of us spend upwards of 40 hours a week in the company of the people we work with and as I am sure you know as an employer, your job is to create and maintain a safe and healthy workplace.

I know you’re thinking, “yeah yeah, preventing accidents and all that stuff, we know!”

But….do you really?

Did you know that a person’s behaviour could be deemed a hazard? Well now you do! Most people assume bullying is purely an employment related issue but – and here is the clincher – it is also a health and safety concern which means that dealing with bullies falls under the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA), Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA), Human Rights Act 1993 (HRA) and Harassment Act 1997 (HA). This means there can be penalties for not dealing with bullying under any of the above Acts, most prominently, the ERA and HSWA. Yikes!

A bully is a hazard that has to be managed just like any other. If you have a toxic employee who is bullying others or is displaying other undesirable behaviours that makes the workplace an unhealthy or unsafe place to be, you have to consider your obligations under the Health and Safety at work Act and take them seriously.

Let’s take a look at what bullying actually means because there is a legal definition in New Zealand;

Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety, such as;
• Unwanted repeated behaviour that is persistent and can involve a range of actions over time.

• Unreasonable behaviour means actions that a reasonable person in the same circumstances would see as unreasonable. It includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person.

If someone’s behaviour doesn’t fall into this definition all is not lost, it just means it’s not defined as bullying. You still have to take action though because it’s all about keeping people out of harm’s way. Here is some really helpful information on dealing with Bullying as a workplace hazard courtesy of WorkSafe NZ Bullying – preventing and responding to workplace bullying