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Government releases review of organisational culture and processes at the Human Rights Commission

Justice Minister Andrew Little today released the Ministerial Review of the Human Rights Commission in relation to the internal handling of sexual harassment claims and its organisational culture.

“I acknowledge the work conducted by retired Judge Coral Shaw. Her findings reveal a system that failed to provide proper care and support for sexual harassment claims made by staff.

“The main conclusions reveal:

  • Some sexual harassment occurred within the HRC but was not prevalent or endemic
  • The Dignity at Work policy used to investigate the October 2017 incident was aged and outdated
  • The HRC has recently improved its systems and processes for dealing with sexual harassment complaints by adopting a new Prevention and Response to Sexual Harassment 2017 policy, but it was formulated without full consultation with the HRC employees

“In relation to the governance and management structures and arrangements of the HRC it’s a concern that the review found:

  • Staff members’ lack of information and trust in management to deal appropriately with their complaints is a potential impediment to the successful implementation of the Prevention and Response to Sexual harassment 2017 policy.
  • There is a deep divide between some staff and some managers and a lack of trust in the management and the Commissioners among some staff.
  • Strategic leadership by the current Board is compromised by a lack of cooperation and communication between Commissioners and between Commissioners and the Chief Executive.

“I announced the review of the procedures and organisational culture at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, following recent concerns about the handling of allegations of sexual harassment.

“It is vital that New Zealanders have trust and confidence in the Human Rights Commission as New Zealand’s authority for dealing with complaints about sexual harassment.

“I am currently awaiting advice form the Ministry of Justice. I will also meet with the State Services Commission today to discuss the next steps to fulfil the report’s recommendations. I have spoken to all Commissioners and the CEO, and I will now deal with the question of Commissioner appointments, as a matter of priority,” says Andrew Little.

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