Pay equity is about both men and women being paid the same for carrying out responsibilities that are different, but of equal value in that the role requires a similar level of skill, degree, responsibility and effort.

In New Zealand all employers must abide by the Equal Pay Act 1972 which was amended in the middle of 2020 to introduce a new process for individual employees and unions to raise a claim with an employer. Pay enquiry is caused by systemic sex-based discrimination that undervalues work that is predominantly performed by females. The amendments provide a pathway for employees and unions to settle pay equity disputes without resorting to suing their employers.

It is important to understand the subtle but key differences when talking about equal pay and pay equity. Equal pay simply means that women and men are paid the same for doing the same work. The process for making an equal pay claim is mostly unaffected by the new act. Pay equity means women and men are paid the same for doing work that is different, but of equal value.

The amendments came about due to a 2012 claim by an aged care worker named Kristine Bartlett who argued that she was underpaid because her work was predominantly performed by women. Bartlett’s case went to the Supreme Court, the results of which found that she was underpaid due to gender discrimination. In the end the New Zealand government negotiated a settlement to prevent further legal action from relevant unions. The decision extended the application of the Equal Pay Act to include pay equity.

The changes allow multiple unions to raise a claim for multiple employees across a single industry where employees are performing the same work. If parties agree that there is a pay equity issue then they are required to sit down and decide upon fair remuneration. Any agreements reached will be ratified forming a part of their new employment agreement.

If you believe that you are impacted by issues around pay equity in your current role get in touch with us to see how we can help. These issues are never easy to discuss as many of us are just pleased to be employed in the current post pandemic/lockdown climate. Everyone deserves pay equity regardless of the excuses that your employer may provide. We all have a right to equity in the workplace especially when it comes to our wages or salary. Remember we are not a union and all of our services aimed at workers are either free of paid for by koha. Our drop in clinics run once a month, usually on the first Friday, and all the details are available from our Facebook page.

To find out more details about what we do and how we can help please visit our site and take a look around. You can also email us directly on or phone us on 0272965276.

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In part two of our blog on bullying the workplace we look at the options that your have when your are faced with harassment, what government bodies there are that can help and the legislation that has been created to help maintain a safe working environment as a basic right.

So what do you do if you are being bullied

Gather information

You will need to compile some details to help you present a case of workplace harassment when you decide to file a complaint with either your employer or an outside organisation like the Coromandel Workers Council. These details are important, and should be true and as accurate as possible. This information will allow the party receiving the information to determine whether or not there is a case for workplace harassment and what steps need to be taken to end further harassment and resolve the issues that have been caused by the harassment being reported. The information that you should consider recording is:

  • The date, time and where it occurred

  • What occurred during the incident ( the people present, what was said and by who)

  • A list of witnesses if there were any

  • How the incident made you feel.

Take action

In these situations you will have a number of options such as:

Seek advice

Seek advice to ensure that what you are experiencing is in fact bullying. This can be sought from a manager, co-worker, health and safety representative, your union, your local Community Law or Citizens Advice Bureau. It’s your right to have a support person present at any of these meetings.

These days most companies will have a human resources department that is there to take an unbiased approach to dealing with these kinds of situations. As above you are permitted to have a support person present in all of your encounters with them.

Report the behaviour

It is important that you report any harassment or bullying to the business or undertaking that employs you. From here they will need to determine the best course of action based on the complaint and the seriousness of the issues you are bringing to their attention.

The business should already have in place a process for how to deal with reports of bullying and harassment. This could involve a formal investigation if the harassment has occurred over a long period of time and involved senior staff or multiple workers. They may also opt to take a different approach which is less formal.

Make a formal written complaint

As already mentioned, your place of work should have a system of processes in place to deal with any formal complaint that they are presented with. A formal complaint should always trigger a formal investigation.

It is important that you have an understanding of the process to ensure that your formally written complaint is formatted correctly and sent to the right person within the company. The written complaint needs to contain specific allegations, dates, times, and the names of any witnesses if there were any.

Deal with it yourself

Lastly if you feel comfortable approaching the party or parties doing the bullying to discuss your concerns then do, but only if you feel okay doing that.


During or after an investigation has been launched both you and the person or people who are accused of bullying can request and take part in mediation. Mediation services, like those provided by the Coromandel Workers Council, involve a trained and impartial mediator facilitating a discussion on to reach an agreement or a way forward. Mediation can create a safe and constructive environment where everyone is able to speak and be heard. Any concerns about such an arrangement should be discussed prior.

What happens after the complaint is submitted

Once a business has received a complaint from you they need to ensure that your working environment is safe and free from reprisals. This means that both you and the person who has been reported are supported appropriately.

The seriousness of the complaint will determine the measures that the business will need to undertake to ensure your safety and wellbeing during the course of the investigation. This may include taking actions like a suspension of work or reassignment of duties for the subject of the complaint.

Guidance of how your interactions with the subject of the complaint should also be outlined if day-to-day contact is unavoidable.

What occurs in an investigation

To ensure that the outcome of any investigation is fair it will need to be carried out by independent and unbiased investigators. They will be interviewing all of the parties involved in the complaint and any witnesses that you mention and go over any documents that are relevant to the complaint. This will help them to compile a report on their findings and recommend solutions to the business. The subject of the complaint should also be given a reasonable opportunity to respond to the allegations or concerns.

From here the business you work for should organise separate meetings with you and the subject of the complaint to discuss the report and the recommended solutions. A copy of the report should be given to you and they should also inform you of your right to appeal and decision and how this process works.

The final decisions and actions should be reported back to you, keeping in mind that the privacy of the subject of the complaint needs to be maintained. The business should inform you of their processes should you be unhappy with the final outcome.

Government bodies and Legislation

When you are unhappy with a final decision made by the business that you work for you will want to look elsewhere to seek a resolution.

Sometimes it is appropriate to approach different Government bodies depending on the seriousness of the complaint and lack of outcome that you are satisfied with.

There is also legislation that can support you to find a better outcome depending on the types of bullying that have occurred.

Firstly there is the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA) which aims to build productive relationships through employment. The ERA outlines the different penalties businesses can face for certain breaches of duties with an employment relationship. Repeated verbal or emotional attacks on an employee may breach the duty of good faith – where parties to an employment relationship are required to be active and constructive in maintaining an employment relationship.

If you resign from your work as a result of your employer to provide a safe working environment you may be able to raise a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal or constructive dismissal. If you are still employed with the business you may still be able to claim unjustified disadvantage under the ERA as well as a breach of contract.

When it comes to harassment the ERA only provides you protection from sexual and racial harassment, which are also covered by the Human Rights Act 1993 (HRA). This also gives ground for a personal grievance under the ERA or a claim under the HRA.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) is the primary work health and safety legislation. Worksafe is the primary health and safety regulator in New Zealand although Maritime New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority also carry out certain health and safety functions that relate to their own industries.

The Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 (HDCA) is meant to deter, prevent or otherwise mitigate harm (serious emotional stress) caused to individuals by digital communications. Its purpose is to provide a quick, efficient and inexpensive legal avenue for people dealing with serious or repeated harmful digital communications.

A digital communication is any form of electronic communication including emails, texts, websites, forums, social media and apps.

Examples of harmful communications include using phones to send threatening or offensive messages, publishing threatening or offensive messages online and publishing invasive or distressing photographs or videos.

So what if someone makes a complaint against you for being a bully

Well firstly it is important that you take the complaint seriously. It’s also important that you are made aware of this as soon as possible after the complaint has been made. Depending on the seriousness of the allegation you could be the subject of a formal investigation. If this were the case then you should expect that details of the complaint and the person making the complaint will be provided to you. This could include a copy of the written complaint and any investigation material that has already been made.

You will then be notified of the complaints process and how it will proceed as well your rights which include having a support person present for any or all of your meetings relating to this matter. Your workplace will then instruct you to keep the matter confidential and to ensure that victimisation does not occur in the interim while the matter is still being investigated.

The possible consequences will need to be outlined to you before the investigation reaches a climax so that you are prepared ahead of time for instances where it has been deemed serious enough that you are asked to resign from your position. Interim measures will also be discussed such as ensuring the safety and welfare of the who has laid the complaint, your suspension pending the outcome or reassigning your duties until further notice.

You will have the opportunity to seek advice and support from organisations such your managers, co-workers, your union, Community Law, CAB or the Human Resources team at your work.

How can you make a difference

Bullying in the workplace is never okay and if we see it we should feel confident to stand to it and say something. This can be scary at times and you should only ever say something at the time if it is safe to do so.

You can also report this type of behaviour to your manager or Human Resources team to prevent this from continuing to happen. We all have a responsibility for a safe working environment and when we see something that is unsafe we should always report it.

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How do we define bullying in the workplace

New Zealand has the second-highest rate of workplace bullying in the developed world with one in 10 employees saying that they have experienced harassment, discrimination or bullying in the workplace.

Bullying is repeated health harming mistreatment by one or more people. It is unreasonable behaviour directed towards a single worker or a group of workers that can lead to physical or psychological harm. Repeated behaviour that is persistent, meaning that it is not just a one off incident, and can involve a range of actions.

Unreasonable means that a reasonable person would consider those actions to be unreasonable if they were in the same or similar situation. These can include things like victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening a person. Bullying may also involve violence.

This type of abusive misconduct should not be confused with non-workplace bullying activity such as one-off instances of rudeness, being set high performance standards, legitimate advice or reviews, reasonable requests for instructions to be carried out, a warning to keep an employee in line with a company’s code of conduct, a single incident of unreasonable behaviour and differences in opinion or views that do not escalate into bullying, harassment, or violence.

What are the affects of bullying on workers?

It has long been known that bullying in the workplace has adverse effects on the mental wellbeing of its victims. In recent years though it has also been shown that bullying has serious effects on the individual's cardiovascular health. The more frequently a victim was subjected to some form of bullying the greater their risk of developing cardiac problems.

Other effects of bullying on victims include:

  • Anxiety, stress, fatigue and burnout

  • Decreased emotional wellbeing

  • Feelings of reduced personal control and helplessness

  • Increased likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism

  • Serious physical or mental health issues including depression and suicide attempts

  • Deterioration in health

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

  • Low self-esteem

  • Reduced coping strategies

When does bullying occur?

Bullying in the workplace is not hierarchical meaning that it is not just managers targeting staff or staff targeting managers. It can also be co-workers targeting one another or other people such as clients, customers or visitors. Bullying also occurs when a company operates in a manner that adds undue stress or unreasonably burdens workers without concern for their wellbeing. In some instances workplace bullying may also occur outside of normal work hours. This can occur through avenues such as email, text messages and social media etc.

What types of behaviours can be perceived as bullying?

There are many types of bullying and bullying behaviour. It can be physical, verbal or relational/social such as excluding someone from a peer group or spreading rumours. Bullying falls into two main categories; attacks that are direct and personal or indirect and task related.

A personal or direct attack can range from belittling remarks, ignoring a person, attacking a person beliefs, attitude, lifestyle or gender references, ridiculing, being shouted at, threats of violence, persistent or public criticism, using obscene or offensive language, intimidation or encouraging someone to feel guilty.

An indirect attack can include being given unachievable or meaningless tasks, having information withheld or concealed from you, having your contributions undervalued, constant criticism of the work that you do, offensive sanctions such as being unreasonably denied leave, changing goal posts or targets, not being provided training or resources, having hints or threats made about the security of your employment, lack of role clarity, scapegoating and denial of opportunities.

In part 2 we will explore what you should do when confronted with bullying in the workplace and what you should expect when submitting a report or complaint.

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The Coromandel Workers Council was set up with the mission of supporting equity in the workplace. 

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