Since July 1, 2012, bullying and harassment have been expressly prohibited conduct at the workplace under Section 5.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Act, RSBC 1996, c 492. In this respect, employers and workers have been provided limited guidance on how to conduct themselves as it relates to bullying and harassment by WorkSafeBC – with the exception of WorkSafeBC’s Rehabilitation Services & Claims Manual Policy item C3-13.00 (Policy C3-13.00) and Practice Directive C-3. This will soon change.
Effective November 1, 2013, British Columbia employers, supervisors, and workers will be operating under a new set of three (3) legally binding WorkSafeBC policies that have been developed to assist in the prevention and/or minimization of bullying and harassment in the workplace.
For employers, the most important of these three WorkSafeBC policies is Employer Duties – Workplace Bullying and Harassment (D3-115-2). Effective November 1st, all employers will be expected to comply with this policy. This policy sets out what WorkSafeBC considers to be “reasonable steps” of an employer in preventing where possible, or otherwise minimizing, workplace bullying and harassment. These include the following:
- Developing a policy statement with respect to workplace bullying and harassment not being acceptable or tolerated.
- Taking steps to prevent where possible, or otherwise minimize, workplace bullying and harassment.
- 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. Included must be procedures for a worker to report if the employer, supervisor or person acting on behalf of the employer, is the alleged bully and harasser.
- Developing and implementing procedures for how the employer will deal with incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment including:(a) how and when investigations will be conducted;(b) what will be included in the investigation;(c) roles and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers and others;(d) follow-up to the investigation (description of corrective actions, timeframe, dealing with adverse symptoms, etc.); and(e) record keeping requirements.
- Informing workers of the policy statement and steps taken to prevent/minimize harassment and bullying.
- Training supervisors and workers on:(a) recognizing the potential for bullying and harassment;(b) responding to bullying and harassment; and(c) procedures for reporting, and how the employer will deal with incidents or complaints of bullying and harassment in (c) and (d) respectively.
- Annually reviewing items #1, 2, 3, and 4 above.
- Not engaging in bullying and harassment of workers and supervisors.
- Applying and complying with the employer’s policies and procedures on bullying and harassment.
Because the definition of “bullying and harassment” includes any inappropriate 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, policies must be designed to consider non-workplace parties such as a member of the public, a client, or anyone a worker comes into contact with at the workplace.