Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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A study of the interplay between the law and organisational codes of conduct with regards to sexual harassment in New Zealand

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posted on 2021-11-23, 13:09 authored by Menne-Spohr, Heike

The aim of this research is to fill a gap in the New Zealand literature which is to investigate whether the sexual harassment legislation is being understood, implemented and monitored in organisations effectively.  This thesis explores how organisations in New Zealand are using tick-box compliance when implementing sexual harassment legislation into their employee policies and procedures documents due to the ambiguity of certain words. It looks at the role that Human Resources consultants and trade unions play, and further using the endogeneity model, the thesis explores the effect that tick-box compliance has on the legal consciousness of sexual harassment in organisations and third parties.  Data was collected through semi-structured interviews with Human Resources professional at public and private sector organisations, Human Resources consultants as well as trade union representatives who are actively involved with the implementation and management of sexual harassment policies in the workplace.    It was found that organisations had implemented sexual harassment policies and procedures several years previously and that these had not been changed significantly due to a lack of change in the law itself. The findings also indicate that the organisations implement sexual harassment polices using a tick-box approach and they do not necessarily fully understand the legislation. It was suggested that the emphasis had shifted from sexual harassment to bullying and that the third parties like trade unions and Human Resources consultants see more cases of this than sexual harassment.   The thesis concludes that although organisations have sexual harassment policies and procedures, these are outdated and are not part of the legal consciousness of organisations, trade unions and Human Resources consultants. The ambiguous nature of the wording in the law itself and the lack of guidelines for organisations on how to implement them has resulted in tick-box compliance and organisations do not know if their policies are effective or not. Further the low penalties for sexual harassment behaviour means that there is no incentive for sexual harassment victims to raise complaints.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Industrial Relations

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Commerce

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Victoria Management School

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Victoria Business School (Faculty of Commerce)


Reilly, Amanda