Calls for workplace safety rules to include emotional and psychological protections

May 17, 2022

Khalia Strong

There are calls for stronger measures to protect workers against hidden forms of violence, and for people to speak up for their workmates.

A campaign is being launched for New Zealand to adopt more stringent protections to prevent harm in the workplace. 

“I know with our Pacific people in our workplaces, we tolerate a lot," says Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo. 

“Being safe at work needs to go beyond physical measures. We focus a lot on being safe, for example, not tripping over something or breaking a leg while you’re at work, but there’s a lot of other harm that’s not recognised. Psychological, emotional bullying counts, and so this convention brings it to the fore and gives it attention.”

She says workplace bullying is often under-reported, especially by Pasifika. 

“They are frequently given tasks that they can’t meet, and they feel like they're not performing, or just people saying inappropriate things to them.”

Sanoamaali’i says our current workplace laws don’t recognise the harm caused by disrespectful behaviours, such as when one worker was forced to remove their religious garments at work. 

“Other people may not see that as a form of bullying, but for us, that’s really, really intrusive.”

She also encourages workers to speak up for their colleagues. 

The International Labour Organisation Violence and Harassment Convention has laid out a global set of laws which has 11 countries on board, including Fiji. 

The Coalition for a Safe World of Work is leading a campaign to eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work.