A healthy work environment has a direct impact on workplace productivity and morale. As the employer, you must take all reasonable precautions for the health and safety of your staff. This includes taking steps to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace.
What is considered bullying and harassment?
WorkSafeBC, the provincial safety enforcement agency, defines bullying and harassment as:
“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”.
Actions that qualify as bullying can be both physical and emotional/psychological. Verbal abuse, spreading rumours, threat of violence are some examples of such behaviour.
If left unchecked, bullying and harassment may corrode workplace productivity and morale. In the long-term, it may increase employee absenteeism and turnover.
Bullying and harassment in the workplace is a serious issue. It can expose you to legal claims. Under the Workers Compensation Act (Bill 14), employees are entitled to compensation for a mental disorder caused by workplace bullying or harassment.
What does not qualify as bullying and harassment?
Any reasonable action taken to improve worker management is not bullying and harassment. For instance, offering constructive feedback on work done or expressing differences of opinion.
What are employer obligations under the law?
WorkSafeBC has developed three policies on this issue under the Workers Compensation Act. These outline the steps to be taken to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace.
An employer’s obligations to prevent and address this issue include:
- Creating a policy statement that says workplace bullying and harassment is unacceptable
- Acting to prevent where possible, otherwise minimize workplace bullying and harassment
- Setting down procedures for staff to report incidents of bullying and harassment. These should include details on how, when and to whom such reports are to be made. It should also clarify the procedure in case the employer or supervisor is the alleged harasser and bully.
- Developing and applying procedures on addressing complaints of bullying and harassment. These must include the following:
- Procedure and timeline for carrying out investigations
- What will be included in the investigation
- Roles and responsibilities of employers, supervisors, workers, and others
- Follow-up to the probe (description of corrective actions, dealing with adverse symptoms, etc.)
- Record-keeping requirements
- Informing staff of the policy statement and procedures developed.
- Providing training to supervisors and workers on the policies and procedures created.
- Annually reviewing the policy statement, steps taken, and procedures developed
- Not bullying and harassing workers and supervisors
- Following policies and procedures on bullying and harassment
Need help addressing bullying in your workplace?
Our experts can help you develop company policies as well as with any other HR and health and safety advice you need. See how we have helped other small and medium businesses get their business compliant with provincial legislation.