In 2012, Bill 14 (the Workers' Compensation Amendment Act, 2011) introduced amendments to British Columbia’s Workers’ Compensation Act (the WCA), to specifically address bullying and harassment in the workplace (see our blog post here). WorkSafeBC, which is tasked with the implementation of the WCA, has now approved three new Occupational Health and Safety Workplace Bullying and Harassment Policies (the Policies), which will take effect on November 1, 2013.
The Policies address the general duties of employers, employees, and supervisors regarding preventing and minimizing bullying and harassment in the workplace. WorkSafeBC defines bullying and harassment to include any inappropriate conduct or comment by a person towards a worker that the person knew or reasonably ought to have known would cause that worker to be humiliated or intimidated, but excludes any reasonable action taken by an employer or supervisor relating to the management and direction of workers or the place of employment.
WorkSafeBC also gives guidance to employers regarding what steps they can take to satisfy their obligations under the WCA with respect to bullying and harassment. It considers that reasonable steps that employers can take to prevent or minimize workplace bullying and harassment include:
- developing a policy statement with respect to workplace bullying and harassment not being acceptable or tolerated;
- developing and implementing procedures for workers to report incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment including how, when and to whom a worker should report incidents or complaints;
- developing and implementing procedures for how the employer will deal with incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment; and
- training supervisors and workers on recognizing the potential for bullying and harassment, responding to bullying and harassment, and procedures for reporting bullying and harassment.
In light of the amendments to the WCA and the approval of the Policies, employers should ensure that they are aware of their obligations with respect to workplace bullying and harassment, and that their policies and procedures reflect those obligations. Such policies and procedures will help to create and maintain a respectful working environment for employees, and they will also reduce the risk of claims for employers.