Health and Safety at Work Act

The new Health and Safety at Work Act comes into effect 4 April 2016. There are significant changes that expand responsibilities for workplace health and safety:

  • increased personal responsibility and liability for directors and
    senior management
  • increased worker participation
  • increased penalties for breaches

Understanding and navigating your way through legislative requirements can be difficult, so here are brief explanations that summarise how workplace stress and bullying will be covered under the new Act.


Stress and the Health and Safety at Work Act

Workplace stress can be a very challenging and complex issue for both employers and employees to manage, and often damages employment relationships if handled poorly.

New Definition of "Hazard"

In the proposed new legislation, the term workplace stress is not explicitly stated, however, it is included in the wider definition of hazard, which under the new Act will mean

"a situation or thing that has a potential to cause death, injury, or illness to a person."

New Definition of "Health"

Also under the Act, the definition of health includes mental health.


In order to comply with the new legislation, employers will need to ensure a range of initiatives are in place related to workplace stress:

  • having health and safety policies and procedures in place to identify and manage workplace stress
  • include workplace stress on a hazard register
  • keep an eye on and monitor stress indicators
  • provide training on stress and techniques for dealing with it for employees and managers
  • implement a culture where employees are encouraged to report workplace stress without fear of retribution or inadequacy.


Workplace Bullying and Health and Safety

Workplace bullying is equally challenging and complex, and under the new Health and Safety legislation, employers will still be required to take reasonable and practicable steps to provide a safe working environment by managing bullying as a workplace hazard as identified above, and preventing physical and psychological harm (including stress) which may result from bullying.

In February 2014, Work Safe New Zealand published new best practice guidelines "Preventing and responding to workplace bullying", which provides information for both employees and employers on how to best respond to and manage workplace bullying. Worksafe Guidelines available here

While the guidelines do not form part of legislation, they provide a well researched and useful guideline to assist employers and employees.

Similarly to workplace stress, employers should familiarise themselves with the guidelines, and implement a similar range of initiatives to prevent and manage workplace bullying, i.e. through health and safety policies and procedures, recognising and responding to workplace bullying, providing staff training on preventing and managing workplace bullying, and ensuring a safe reporting culture.



Q. Is workplace stress or bullying an issue in your workplace?

Q. Will you be meeting your responsibilities as an employer under the new Health and Safety legislation?

Q. Have you been thinking about wellness programmes for your staff?

Q. Do you need staff training that makes a difference?

For a confidential free discussion contact us:

m. 027 2411 805

Email Kirsty




Taking the Bully by the Horns

Taking the Bully by the Horns