Are women safe in the New Zealand workplace? : a study of sexual harassment policies and procedures : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, Women's Studies, at Massey University
First recognised and named by feminist activists in the 1970s, sexual harassment continues to be a critical issue for women in the workplace. Feminists took women's experiences seriously enough to uncover the problem, conceptualise it and pursue it legally. In New Zealand unions lobbied for an effective law to make sexual harassment unlawful and as a result provisions were included in the Labour Relations Act 1987. These provisions have been retained with amendments in the Employment Contracts Act 1991 and the Employment Relations Act 2000. This study investigates the sexual harassment policies and procedures of a sample group of public and private workplaces with the purpose of gaining an insight into whether there are adequate policies to protect women from sexual harassment in the New Zealand workplace. A survey method was used to collect the data and a feminist framework was employed to analyse the survey results. The study found that only three of the twelve workplaces surveyed had what could be considered adequate policies. Six of the surveyed workplaces had no policies or procedures at all and a further three had policies but did not communicate them to their staff. Furthermore it was found that in some of the workplaces where there were policies in place, survey respondents made unsolicited reports of sexual harassment. The conclusion was reached that although there were adequate policies in one quarter of the workplaces surveyed this could barely be considered adequate overall to protect women from sexual harassment. Having policies in place is critical and should be made a legal imperative, but implementing the policies and procedures and monitoring their effectiveness is the key factor in preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.