Diversity chief takes aim at Human Rights Commission

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The head of a leading diversity group has spoken out about the Human Rights Commission, saying it will lose the public confidence if it fails to handle harassment within its own organisation.

Bev Cassidy-Mackenzie, chief executive of Diversity Works New Zealand, made the comments yesterday after it was revealed a young woman had cut short her internship at the commission after she was groped by a senior staff member.

“The most disappointing aspect of the incident is that the young woman involved felt unsupported by her workplace when she reported the incident, and that there was no specific policy in place to deal with the matter,” said Cassidy-Mackenzie.

“All organisations, big and small, have a responsibility to put procedures in place to look after their staff,” she continued. “And this organisation’s core role is to protect the human rights of all people in Aotearoa.”

The most recent New Zealand Diversity Survey, carried out in October last year, revealed that a little more than a quarter of organisations had recorded incidents of bullying or harassment during the prior 12 months.

The survey also revealed that bullying and harassment are reported more frequently in public-sector organisations (35%) than in private-sector organisations (22%).

It also found that 69 per cent of all organisations have implemented either formal policies or programs and initiatives to deal with this issue.

“Most employers are aware this is a serious issue that affects not only the welfare of their staff, but also productivity, which ultimately impacts the bottom line,” said Cassidy-Mackenzie.

“It’s not just that employers have a legal requirement to create a safe working environment for their staff; it makes good business sense to do so.”

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