Dealing with Workplace Burnout



A 2023 report found that employees in New Zealand were more likely to suffer from workplace burnout than any other country globally (70% versus the global average of 59%).[1]

The report, published by global workplace strategy and design experts, Unispace, found that half of the employees surveyed cited workload as the main driver of burnout. A further third said that they felt the pressure to be “on” when working remotely.

The Australian government recently passed the Closing Loopholes Bill No.2, which gives employees the right to disconnect from their employers after hours.  Under the new legislation, employees can refuse to monitor, read, or respond to contact from an employer or third party outside their contracted hours.

In this article, we discuss what workplace burnouts is; causes of workplace burnout; obligations of employers and employees in relation to workplace burnout and stress, and practical tips to address workplace burnout.

What is workplace burnout?

The New Zealand Resident Doctors’ Association defines workplace burnout as the result of chronic workplace stress which has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions:[2]

‘Workplace stress’ is not a term defined by law. Stress describes a person’s physical or emotional response to the demands or pressures of daily life. ‘Workplace stress’ is a general description of an employee’s response to workplace stressors.

What are the stressors that cause workplace burnout?

Workplace stressors include:

What are employers’ obligations in relation to workplace burnout?

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, employers are required to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of their workers.

Employers are required to monitor employees for potential workplace stress, such as keeping an eye on workload, job performance and the type of tasks being performed, as well as any physical signs of stress.

How should employers address workplace burnout and stress?

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to dealing with workplace stress, as much will depend on the nature of the workplace and the work being undertaken.

However, these are some key steps that all employers should consider:

Employers that that fail to properly address workplace stress will inevitably have lower long-term productivity and risk employees raising personal grievances for unjustified disadvantage and unjustified dismissal (constructive dismissal for failing to maintain a safe workplace).

In Parker v Magnum Hire Limited & Anor,[3] the Employment Relations Authority found that the employer, Magnum Hire Limited, had failed to address Mr Parker’s concerns regarding bullying and harassment and found that Mr Parker had been unjustifiably disadvantaged and dismissed from his employment (constructively). Mr Parker was awarded tax-free compensation under s 123(1)(c)(i) of the Employment Relations Act 2000 in the sum of $100,000 ($50,000 for the unjustified disadvantage and $50,000 for the unjustified dismissal) together with other financial compensation. While this is one of the largest awards when we have seen – it is in line with the increasing size of awards in the Authority.

What are employees’ obligations in relation to workplace burnout?

Employees also have an obligation under the Act to take care of themselves at work. This includes notifying an employer of any work-related stress and taking steps to minimise and address workplace stress as best as possible. Strategies for managing workplace stress and avoiding workplace burnout include:

If you’re worried about someone’s mental health (or your own) you can contact one of the following free helplines or contact your GP or healthcare provider:


By taking proactive, rather than reactive steps, employers can effectively manage stress in the workplace. If you need assistance with preparing policies, navigating an issue that has arisen due to workplace stress or burnout or any other employment law matters, please contact the team at Black Door Law.

Disclaimer:  This information is intended as general legal information and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a specific issue and wish to discuss it, get in touch with the Black Door Law team by email or calling (04) 280 3980.



[1] Unispace Global Pty Limited – Returning for Good – Global Workplace Insights Report –2023 at page 101.


[3] Parker v Magnum Hire Limited & Anor [2024] NZERA 85 3160402