New laws extend timeframe for sexual harassment personal grievances

14 Jun 23

New laws provide employees with an extended timeframe of 12 months to raise a personal grievance claim in cases of sexual harassment.

The Employment Relations (Extended Time for Personal Grievance for Sexual Harassment) Amendment Bill has now come into force.

The Amendment Bill introduces two significant updates to the existing Employment Relations Act 2000.

  • An employee will have 12 months to raise a personal grievance in respect of a sexual harassment claim. All other personal grievances remain restricted by the current 90-day window.  This change will apply to both current and new employees.
  • All employment agreements must include a resolution of employment relationship problem clause, which is already mandatory. This clause will now need updated to refer to the two different timeframes for raising a personal grievance, 12 months for sexual harassment, and 90 days for all other grievances.  This change will apply to all new employment agreements entered into.

Implications for new employees

Have your employment agreement templates reviewed and updated immediately.  Ensure the resolution of employment relationship problem clause refers to the two timeframes, 12 months for a sexual harassment grievance and 90 days for all other claims.  If clauses are not updated, an employee will have strong grounds to apply for leave to raise a personal grievance for a sexual harassment claim beyond the new 12 months’ timeframe.

We also recommend using this as an opportunity to conduct a thorough review of your current employment agreements to incorporate other recent updates. For example, the introduction of Te Rā Aro ki a Matariki/Matariki Observance Day as a public holiday, the extension of sick leave and bereavement leave entitlements and the introduction of family violence entitlements.

Implications for current employees

While it is best practice to extend these updates to current employee agreements to ensure consistency, it is not immediately necessary.

Proposing changes to current employment agreements which alter existing terms and conditions (rather than purely additional statutory entitlements) will depend on the extent of the proposed changes:

  • For minor updates to a single clause, a letter of variation would likely be the simplest option. This can be signed by the parties and attached to the current employment agreement.
  • If the updates are more extensive, a new employment agreement could be offered.

It is also timely to review any workplace policies that may also reference personal grievances to ensure this new timeframe is reflected.

Want to know more?

If you have any questions about this update, please contact our specialist Employment Team.

PDF version: here.

For more information contact:

John Farrow