Proposed bill boosts personal grievance process for workplace harassment victims

Parliament has passed the legislation on first reading

Proposed bill boosts personal grievance process for workplace harassment victims

Parliament has passed on first reading a proposed law aimed at improving the personal grievance process for victims of sexual harassment in workplaces across New Zealand.

Under the Employment Relations (Extended Time for Personal Grievance for Sexual Harassment) Amendment Bill (Bill 87−1), the time limit for raising a personal grievance involving allegations of sexual harassment has been extended from 90 days to 12 months for employees.

The bill takes into consideration that the current 90-day period imposes an “arbitrary deadline” on victims of workplace sexual harassment and reduces the chance to raise concerns regarding the abusive behaviour of their colleagues. The law stressed that the original 90-day time limit “may not be enough” for employees who have been subjected such treatment, as victims may need some time to consider incidents and to feel safe with raising the matter to others.

“Coming forward to report sexual harassment can be difficult, and it is common for victims of sexual harassment to wait a long time before coming forward, if at all,” the legislation said.

The Employment Relations (Extended Time for Personal Grievance for Sexual Harassment) Amendment Bill has now advanced to the selection committee process and is being reviewed by the Education and Workforce Committee. The committee has opened the floor for public feedback until 15 July.

“This is a simple bill, but it deals with a complex and difficult matter of sexual harassment,” said Labour MP for New Lynn Deborah Russell, who authored the bill, during the legislation’s first reading. “Sexual harassment is an invidious and difficult issue to talk about, let alone take action to try to prevent or to seek redress when it is found to have taken place, [and] our law does try to deal with it, but it could be better.”

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