An employment law specialist will head the inquiry into allegations of bullying leveled against Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell, State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes has announced.

Maxwell was placed on leave last week, following a Newsroom investigation into allegations of bullying and mismanagement raised by more than a dozen former staff at her Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC).

In a statement, Hughes said Maria Dew QC would investigate the allegations levelled against Maxwell, following a request for an inquiry from Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi.

Dew, who specialises in employment law, has been the deputy chair of the Health Practitioners Tribunal since 2013 and is currently leading an independent review into the culture of the Black Sticks women’s hockey team.

She is also on the Council of the New Zealand Bar Association, and earlier in her career served as the BNZ’s in-house counsel for employment law.

“[Dew] is highly regarded, has a reputation for integrity and a thorough understanding of New Zealand employment law,” Hughes said.

Dew has been asked to investigate and report on whether allegations Maxwell bullied current or former staff can be substantiated, whether she provided working conditions that were free from bullying, and whether the CFFC “had systems and policies in place to support the management of staff concerns or complaints”.

She is also able to look into “any other relevant matters” arising from her investigation.

Hughes said he has asked Dew to provide a report by February 28 next year.

Speaking to media at a separate event and before Dew’s appointment was announced, the State Services Commissioner said he had some concerns about the structure of organisations like the CFFC, where chief executive served as their own board.

“Particularly in the Crown entity sector, a lot of these arrangements are quite old and I am interested in looking at how fit for purpose going forward some of these arrangements are.”

Maxwell has denied the bullying allegations, saying when the inquiry was first announced that she looked forward to “providing clarity as part of a robust and accountable process”.

Sam Sachdeva is Newsroom's national affairs editor, covering foreign affairs and trade, housing, and other issues of national significance.

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