Calls to tackle New Zealand’s workplace bullying problem

The PSA wants to strengthen protection from violence in the workplace

Calls to tackle New Zealand’s workplace bullying problem

New Zealand’s Public Service Association has called on the government to strengthen the protection for victims of violence, both at home and in the workplace.

Even before the pandemic, New Zealand had one of the highest rates of domestic violence per capita in the developed world, as well as the second highest rate of workplace bullying.

Now, the PSA has urged the government to ratify Convention 190 of the International Labour Organisation which sets out a framework under international law to protect people from violence in the workplace.

“We tend to think of violence as something that happens to women at home, behind closed doors, but workplaces are not always safe either,” PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk said.

“Too many New Zealanders face violence, harassment or intimidation at work, whether from abusive partners, clients or colleagues.

"Campaigning by anti-violence organisations and unions like our own has led to significant progress, such as the passing of the Domestic Violence Victims’ Protection Act.

“Winning ten days paid leave for survivors of domestic violence is an incredible achievement, but women are not confined to the home anymore and our workplaces must also be made as safe as possible."

Read more: Violence at work: When should you step in?

According to Worksafe, between one in five and one in three New Zealanders report bullying or harassment at work every year.

While earlier this year, The New Zealand Workplace Barometer project conducted by Massey University’s Healthy Work Group found nearly a quarter of New Zealand workers have witnessed bullying in the workplace, and 12 per cent have been bullied.

The number of calls to police and support services from those experiencing domestic violence jumped by 20% during COVID-19.

Working from home also increased the risk of online workplace bullying.

Read more: Deloitte chief talent officer: Why you need an anti-violence policy

As employees were forced to work from home, the pandemic reinforced the important part an employer plays in ensuring staff have a safe place to work.

The PSA called on the government to show global leadership, becoming one of the first countries to sign the ILO Convention 190.

"The struggle for gender equality encompasses both the fight against violence and the fight for equal pay. It’s very difficult to leave a violent partner if you are unable to rely on secure, fairly paid employment," says Nancy McShane, co-convenor of the PSA Women’s Network.

"We must address both ends of the problem. Pay women fairly for the work they do, and take concrete steps to ensure our homes and workplaces are free from all forms of violence."

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