What is this Legislation All About?
In July, 2012, WorkSafe BC amended its legislation to allow workers to file claims if they have developed a diagnosed mental disorder which has arisen primarily because of a significant workplace stressor, such as workplace bullying/harassment. The mental disorder must be diagnosed by a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist.
The legislation explicitly excludes "significant workplace stressors" that arise from good-faith decisions made in relation to a worker's employment, such as discipline, performance appraisals, changes in duties and workload. That is, workers who may suffer from a mental disorder due to stress from discipline or termination will not have their claims accepted. The focus of the legislation is on the overall workplace environment in which people work, not on the work duties they perform.
WorkSafe BC Policies on Workplace Harassment/Bullying
In addition to its legislation (the Workers Compensation Act), WorkSafe BC has developed policies that mandate the creation and maintenance of a respectful, harassment-free workplace. The full policies can be found at: http://www2.worksafebc.com/Topics/BullyingAndHarassment/RegulationAndGuidelines.asp?ReportID=37228.
Significantly, this is not an "Employer-Only" issue: WorkSafe BC has created three different sets of policies: one for employers, one for supervisors and one for employees, including "reporting obligations" on bystanders who are aware of potential bullying/harassment of others.
Together, the legislation and policies raise the bar on respect for everyone in the workplace. That is, WorkSafe BC expects all individuals, regardless of their position, to take responsibility for maintaining a respectful workplace. No one individual or group can expect another to "fix" workplace negativity or toxicity. Instead, everyone is expected to work together, in a constructive and positive manner, to resolve workplace conflict early and do whatever is necessary to prevent workplace harassment and bullying.
Who is Responsible for What?
Employers are responsible for:
- creating policies that outline expectations for respectful behaviour and clearly prohibit harassment/bullying;
- educating staff and supervisors on what constitutes workplace harassment/bullying and how to address/remedy it;
- setting up a clear system to facilitate the confidential reporting of harassment;
- objectively investigating claims of potential harassment as soon as they come to their attention; and
- remedying harassment by holding employees accountable for unacceptable behaviour towards others.
Supervisors are responsible for:
- actively monitoring their department for signs of harassment;
- immediately responding to and addressing potential harassment;
- ensuring they behave in a manner consistent with the legislation and policies; and
- fully complying with all employer policies regarding workplace harassment/bullying.
Employees are responsible for:
- not engaging in or supporting the harassment/bullying of others (including workers, supervisors and others);
- immediately reporting to the employer if they think they are being bullied/harassed; and
- immediately reporting to the employer if they have observed someone else who, in their view, may be being bullied/harassed.
It is important that every workplace, union, supervisor and worker in BC, including shop representatives, be aware of the WorkSafe BC legislation and policies on workplace harassment.
Marli Rusen has played a key role in educating a number of different workplaces on these changes. Marli has created the six-step “Mirror Method” to assist workplaces in educating leaders and staff on their legal obligations to build and maintain respectful workplaces.
Marli and her team also provide ongoing practical support and intervention services to workplaces to ensure they remain compliant with the legislation and act with due diligence and dispatch in the face of suspected or known workplace dysfunction.
Contact us to see how we may assist you in building a healthy, respectful and harassment-free workplace.