A former lawyer who now heads legal tech start-up Automio has developed a bot that generates sexual harassment policies for businesses.

Automio founder and ex-commercial lawyer Claudia King said the team began working on the free software a week ago and launched it today.

Recent allegations around sexual harassment and assault surrounding Russell McVeagh and other law firms prompted the company to develop the software, King said.

In just a few hours about 50 companies from a range of industries - including law firms - had already used the software to generate customised policies, she said.


"We want to help New Zealand workplaces be safe environments for everybody, and to make that happen businesses and organisations need clear, rock-solid sexual harassment policies so people in the workplace know exactly what behaviour is and isn't allowed and what the consequences will be," King said.

The bot is available through Automio's website and is essentially an online interview that asks a series of questions about the business. It takes approximately two minutes to complete.

Earlier in the month, ex-litigation lawyer Olivia Wensley, who also works at the tech start-up, penned a post on her LinkedIn account that voiced her surprise at everyone being shocked at sexual assault allegations - given it was very much "the norm'' within the legal profession.

King said the team was inspired by Wensley's courage to speak out about her experiences of sexual harassment during her time as a lawyer.

"We wanted to help this issue somehow, and this is our way of doing that," she said.

"I challenge New Zealand businesses to get a sexual harassment policy in place and I hope as many possible do do it.

A screenshot of Automio's sexual harassment bot.
A screenshot of Automio's sexual harassment bot.

"People are talking about creating safe places for victims to come forward so they feel comfortable making complaints, which is awesome but it would be even better if we stopped people from sexually harassing in the first place, and using a sexual harassment policy is a good way of working towards that."

A sexual harassment policy was good because it sets out a procedure to be followed when there is a complaint and a basis to assess behaviour on, King said.


"The sexual harassment bot isn't going to magically fix these issues but at least it gives businesses and organisations a starting point to make change."

A yoga studio, website design firm and a furniture shop were among the businesses that had signed up for a policy.