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Employees now have 12 months to raise a personal grievance for sexual harassment
The timeframe for employees raising a personal grievance involving allegations of sexual harassment has been extended from 90 days to 12 months. We talk to Humankind Associate Director Nicola Dunn about what this legislation update means and why business leaders need to be across it.
The Employment Relations (Extended Time for Personal Grievance for Sexual Harassment) Amendment Act recently received Royal Assent and came into effect on 13 June 2023. So what does this mean?
Nicola explains that the timeframe for employees raising a personal grievance involving allegations of sexual harassment has been extended from 90 days to 12 months – even if the employee’s employment ends during the 12-month period.
“So the new timeframe applies to sexual harassment events that happened or came to the notice of the employee, on or after 13 June 2023. This doesn’t affect the 90-day timeframe for other types of personal grievances.”
Why is this change important?
“Speaking up about 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. This change aims to improve the personal grievance process for victims of sexual harassment by ensuring they have time to process what has happened and decide on their next steps.”
Does this mean we all need to update our employment agreements?
“Any new employment agreements from 13 June 2023 must include the new extended timeframe for raising a personal grievance that relates to sexual harassment – however, you don’t need to amend current agreements. This means any organisation’s employment agreement templates will need to be updated.”
And there are plenty of other things to consider, Nicola says.
Review your policies and other documents
“You may need to review any policies or documents that relate to sexual harassment or personal grievances to ensure they are up to date.”
Make sure your leaders understand the change
“Talk to your leaders about the change so they are equipped to answer questions and support their people.”
Communicate the change with your people
“Although you’re not required to notify employees about this change, we encourage you to do so. This doesn’t need to be anything formal – you could mention the change at team meetings or add a note to an email or newsletter.”
Set clear expectations about appropriate behaviour
“Prevention is key, so make it clear that sexual harassment has no place at your organisation and address any behaviour you see that falls short of your expectations.”
Create a culture where people feel comfortable speaking up
“It’s always best to hear about and address issues early – before they escalate. If you only hear about an issue 12 months after it happened, this may mean that any necessary investigation is challenging, for example, if people don’t remember events clearly, or critical people have left the organisation.
Consider reviewing or refreshing your employment agreements
“This can be a good opportunity to review your templates – are they up to date? Do they cover what’s important to your organisation? Are they user-friendly? Do they reflect your culture? Remember employment agreements are one of the first document a new joiner receives, so it’s important that they reflect your organisation and what it’s about.”
Humankind is a people and culture and employee experience consultancy that supports organisations across Aotearoa so build great employee experiences and strong organisational cultures. It specialises in organisational design, leadership development, outsourced people and culture support, employment relations, change management, restructures and people insights.
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