Health and safety

Be informed about your rights and responsibilities and aware of how to respond if you experience difficulties (including harassment) at your internship.

Prepare for your internship and be clear on your workplace rights (and obligations) and remedies if a problem occurs. Staff from Careers and Employment are available to help. Your employer has a general duty to protect your health and safety at work, as far as this is reasonably practicable and it’s important for you to be informed.

During the internship discuss any concerns with a senior person, university staff member or support services. The University has resources to help keep you healthy and safe—whether that's physical or mental health, or general wellbeing. We are there to support you at any time, including during the internship.

What to do if you experience harassment

Our pledge of support for you

Victoria University of Wellington regards harassment of any kind involving students, whether on or off campus, as unacceptable. Students have the option to do an internship as part of specific courses, apply for summer internships, or take employment generally (such as in retail outlets, banks, cafés or other places of employment). These can be wonderful opportunities. Wherever you choose to work, you are entitled to be safe and happy. If harassment, bullying or discrimination compromises this in any way, Victoria University of Wellington will support you and enable you to access help.

What is harassment?

Generally, harassment is unwelcome, unsought and unreturned behaviour by a person or group that tends to offend, humiliate or intimidate, and interferes with your right to work in a non-threatening environment. Forms of harassment can range from repeated apparently trivial behaviour to behaviour of such a significant nature that it has a detrimental effect on your ability to engage in normal activities.

When you go on an internship or summer clerk role, the firm or company offering the opportunity is in a powerful position in relation to you because the role may turn into a job once you finish your degree. Whether you are interning or working in a job of any kind you may feel obliged to do everything you are asked to do while in that role. This is not the case and you should be very clear that you are not obliged to comply with any requests of a harassing, bullying or discriminating nature. These types of behaviours can be subtle, hard to define, and can be dependent on the environment they happen in, so if you are unsure please talk to someone.

Forms of harassment

Harassment can take different forms. The following descriptions may help identify it:

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is unsought, unwanted attention, comments or other behaviour of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment is not confined to any gender or sexuality, and it may be subtle or obvious. It includes requests for sex, sexual contact or sexual activity by your employer, colleagues or clients with direct or implied threats or promises about how you will be treated at work or your future job security. It also includes language, visual material, or physical behaviour of a sexual nature that is unwelcome or offensive to you and is either repeated, or of such a significant nature, that it has a detrimental effect on your ability to engage in work activities, your job satisfaction, your job performance or your general well-being.

Racial harassment

Racial harassment includes the use of hurtful or offensive language, visual material or physical behaviour that directly or indirectly expresses hostility, contempt or ridicule to you on the basis of your race, colour, ethnic or national origins, and is repeated or so significant that it has a detrimental effect on your employment, job satisfaction or job performance. It can still be harassment where the person did not intend to racially harass you.

Harassment to people of minority sexualities, genders, and sex characteristics

People who identify as LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual) and takatāpui or identify as belonging to Rainbow communities have the right to feel safe and included in their learning and working environments.

For more information on support for LGBTQIA+ people at work, see this OutLine resource.

Other types of harassment

Other types of harassment can be unwelcome, unjustified behaviour that you find offensive or humiliating, such as comments, visual material or behaviour that expresses hostility, ridicule or intimidation of people on the basis of characteristics such as gender, age, sexual orientation, appearance and sexual preference etc. This may include a general atmosphere of regular teasing or jokes, which may amount to bullying if repeated.

In its most serious forms, harassment may amount to a criminal offence. For example, in the case of serious sexual harassment, such offences could include criminal harassment, indecent or physical assault and/or sexual violation.

Situations to look out for

Some examples of situations which might give rise to harassment issues for you in the context of your internship, clerkship or other employment include:

  • being asked to meet a partner or senior member of the firm or company at their home or a restaurant to work on a file outside working hours
  • being encouraged or instructed to attend drinks after work, where you are encouraged to drink excessively or not discouraged from doing so
  • a manager, colleague or client keeps making comments about your appearance, character or friendliness
  • offensive comments or jokes about a person’s race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, appearance or other personal characteristics
  • sexual or smutty jokes
  • unwanted comments or teasing about a person's sexual activities or private life
  • offensive hand or body gestures
  • physical contact such as patting, pinching or touching
  • provocative posters with a sexual connotation
  • online comments, pictures or posts about a person’s sexual activities, race, gender or other personal characteristics
  • persistent and unwelcome social invitations (or telephone calls or emails) from workmates – at work or outside of the workplace
  • hints or promises of preferential treatment in exchange for sex
  • threats of differential treatment if sexual activity is not offered.

What can you do about harassment?

Don’t be afraid to act. If you are harassed at work, the most appropriate course of action is to complain to an appropriate senior manager at your workplace so that they can respond, if you feel able to do that. However, you can also seek guidance and advice about your options at any stage from the University.

If you have any concerns please contact:

You can also access support and advice in confidence at the following:

Find out more information about help available, including from external organisations. (Although the information on the page linked refers to sexual violence, it is equally relevant to obtaining help in relation to sexual harassment and other forms of harassment.)

Learn more about employee rights

Before taking up an internship, you are encouraged to complete this introductory e-learning module on employment rights, from Employment New Zealand. The module is a quick summary to your employment rights and is designed for all employees covering both current and future workers. It is intended for people in all kinds of paid employment contracts including internships.