The new year brings an opportunity for reflection on the past year with a view to making improvements moving forward. It is also a good time for British Columbia employers to undertake a required annual review of workplace bullying and harassment policies and procedures.
Under section 115 of the British Columbia Workers Compensation Act, employers have a general duty to ensure the health and safety of all workers working for the employer and any other workers present at a workplace at which the employer's work is being carried out.
As part of this general duty, employers must take reasonable steps to address workplace bullying and harassment. WorksafeBC Guideline G-D3-115(1)-3 sets out what WorkSafeBC considers to be reasonable steps, which include the following:
(a) developing a policy statement with respect to workplace bullying and harassment not being acceptable or tolerated;
(b) taking steps to prevent where possible, or otherwise minimize, workplace bullying and harassment;
(c) 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;
(d) developing and implementing procedures for how the employer will deal with incidents or complaints of workplace bullying and harassment including:
- how and when investigations will be conducted;
- what will be included in the investigation;
- roles and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers and others;
- follow-up to the investigation (description of corrective actions, timeframe, dealing with adverse symptoms, etc.); and
- record keeping requirements;
(e) informing workers of the policy statement in (a) and the steps taken in (b);
(f) training supervisors and workers on:
- recognizing the potential for bullying and harassment;
- responding to bullying and harassment; and
- iii. procedures for reporting, and how the employer will deal with incidents or complaints of bullying and harassment in (c) and (d) respectively;
(g) annually reviewing (a), (b), (c), and (d);
(h) not engaging in bullying and harassment of workers and supervisors; and
(i) applying and complying with the employer's policies and procedures on bullying and harassment. (emphasis added)
The beginning of a new year is a good time for employers to conduct the annual review of their workplace bullying and harassment policies and procedures as required by WorkSafeBC guidelines. This review should include checking for compliance with WorkSafeBC requirements and reflecting on how well any associated procedures have worked over the past year with a view to updating and improving the effectiveness of such policies and procedures.
Note also that any new managers and employees should be properly trained on the employer's workplace bullying and harassment policies and procedures (and we recommend that longstanding managers and employees be provided with a refresher).
The lawyers in Lawson Lundell's Labour, Employment, and Human Rights Group are experienced in developing and updating workplace bullying and harassment policies and delivering training to employees and management. For further information, please contact a member of our group.
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