- BC Games
Mills: Get serious about bullying in the workplace
The action against bullying in the workplace is picking up momentum.
Employers were made aware last year when Bill 14 passed and became a formal section in the Workers’ Compensation Act that harassment and bullying behaviour is considered unacceptable workplace conduct.
And now another milestone looms near. On November 1, 2013 all employers in BC must have a workplace harassment and bullying policy in place that includes procedures for reporting and investigating complaints. In addition, employers must provide training to all their employees and managers so that they can recognize and respond appropriately to this prohibited behaviour.
Work Safe BC’s bold step to include harassment and bullying behaviour under their mandate has been widely covered in the media and it sends a clear message that employers are responsible for managing incidents in their workplaces. It isn’t just that they should take action, as a good employer; it is now a legal requirement that they do so.
By legislating employers to have these policies, procedures and training in place, Work Safe BC has ensured that negligence will be considered non-compliance with the WCA, resulting in possible fines. I’m certain no employer wants that kind of stain on their record.
For any employer who does not already have it in place, now is the time to get that policy written or updated. Once it’s ready, make sure everyone in the organization is trained on what it means and what their options are if they witness or experience bullying or harassment at work. These two simple steps will ensure compliance, hopefully in advance of the November 1st deadline.
There is also the reality that just because a harassment and bullying policy is in place doesn’t mean everyone follows it. (Hopefully that isn’t shocking news to anyone.) There will always be people who don’t get it. That makes it even more critical for an employer to be very clear and consistent about how policy violations will be handled.
WorkSafe BC requires employers to train all employees on the specifics of a formal bullying and harassment policy however exactly what that mandated training looks like is unclear. What a wonderful opportunity.
Rather than just going through the motions of a policy review, employers can explore the real intention behind it and use training sessions to encourage open discussions about harassing and bullying behaviour, how it impacts others personally, and its potential to taint the whole workplace climate.
Of course there are organizations that are already actively promoting respectful workplace behaviours. They have harassment and bullying policies and procedures already in place with refresher training on those documents occurring regularly. This kind of proactive approach is commendable and a great way to send a strong message about what kind of professional conduct is expected of employees.
With WorkSafe BC’s new compliance requirements, employers are being asked to dedicate more time, money and energy to addressing an issue that can potentially lead to very unhealthy workplaces if left unchecked.
Harassment and bullying still happens far too often; it is time for employers to step up to this call for action and find ways to make their organizations safer, healthier places to work.